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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Cutting off my finger!


I'm taking a bit of a shortcut with todays blog. I had intended talking a bit about the (perceived) free choices that we take everyday. As pictures speak louder than words I have put up a little demonstration of how someones apparently free choice may not be quite so free afterall!!!!

Let me know what you think in the comments section below.

Also, if there are any topics you would like me to elaborate on leave a comment or drop me a mail.

Best regards,


Here is the link to my Youtube clip (enjoy!)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Coincidences, you gotta love ‘em.

Coincidences, you gotta love ‘em.

But what are they really? Are they the symptom of an inherent psychic ability we all possess or is it just man’s quirky brain seeing meaning and patterns that aren’t really there.
You see, we’re a funny bunch us humans, we take notice of certain things, are amazed at others, yet we ignore the truly miraculous and dismiss it as mundane. We take for granted the complexity of nature and instead congratulate ourselves for our supernatural ability when a friend we were’ just thinking about’ phones us up out of the blue to say hi!
If you take the human gloss off coincidence you are left with some pretty basic maths. Here is an example. I regularly predict the gender of unborn children for Mothers to be. I am never wrong! I have my methods based on sound psychological principles but to the people present when I open my written prediction (a letter sealed in an envelope signed by the mother-to-be during the pregnancy) the spectators are amazed. But really how amazing is a 50:50 chance. If you take a coin from your pocket and flip it, go on, actually do this….Ok now that you have flipped it, how amazed would you be if I correctly predict which side it landed on. Not very I would say, anyone can do that right? So why are we amazed when coincidences happen?
I think it is because we are all searching, searching for something out of the ordinary to happen, to make the mundane strange, mix things up a little. We do this on a sub-conscious level. When a friend calls out of the blue, is it really that amazing, they are going to call sometime, and statistically, the longer they leave it, the greater the chances are that you will be thinking of them when they do ring!
Here’s another one, you are in an airport going on holidays, eventually you make it to the departure lounge, sitting at the gate you notice someone you have not seen in ages is on the same flight as you, wow, cool. Well, it may be cool, but it is not really wow. In general I think you will find that people go to airports to get a flight. There are only 365 days in the year so the odds that someone you know is flying the same day as you are already pretty high. Add the destination into the equation; is it a common holiday destination? Add the time of year, holidays, weekend? Hmmm, its starting to get less and less of a coincidence now isn’t it.
 But what about those really, really remote possibilities, those one in a million things. Okay some weird stuff does happen, granted. We live in a cause and effect world, if you trace back the co-incidences to their root cause you will find that the two are simply the result of two mundane things happening that kick off a chain of events that coincide under seemingly impossible conditions.
A lot of my work involves making coincidences happen, making the seemingly impossible (or more accurately, improbable) possible. And this is my secret to making coincidences happen!!!! Initiate two mundane events where you understand and know what the chain of events will look like. It is just a matter of initiating two events that you know will coincide in several steps time. Easy eh!
This may sound a little complicated but take a look at the link in my blog to 20 amazing coincidences and try to explain each one to yourself rationally. You'll be surprised at how easy they are to explain and trace back possible root causes for each variable. Bear in mind that the more variables that are needed to create the environment for the coincidence, the harder they are to trace back.
Take the example of the same guy saving the same kid that fell from the same building twice.
Well, what are the facts.
1.       Guy walks past building regularly
2.       Window is left open
3.       Kid has a propensity to climb
Hmmm, would you be surprised if it happened again? Think about it!
So, here is a little summary:
1.     Pareidolia – This is a cognitive bias that we are all subject to, it is where a vague and random stimulus (often an image or sound) is perceived as significant, e.g., seeing images of animals or faces in clouds, the man in the moon, and hearing non-existent hidden messages on records played in reverse. So we have an inclination to spot the amazing in the mundane.
2.       We live in a cause and effect world – every action is caused by and leads to a chain of events and other actions
3.       We have a tendency to jump to conclusion without all the data/facts
So you can use all of the above to give people that amazing feeling of coincidence.
But don't worry, even with all of this knowledge, you and I will still enjoy the perceived weirdness of our next coincidence, we are human after all!!!

P.S. Your coin landed on heads

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Shopping for Wonders

Hi All,
Thanks for taking the time to check out my second instalment of ‘Mental Miscellany’
If you read my introduction you might be wondering what colour I attempted to implant into your mind last week.
The colour was RED, I estimate that I was successful with at least 90% of you, feel  free to add any comments on here, I got some good feedback and some of you had interesting theories, so thanks for that.
OK, last week I mentioned that I would talk a little about mnemonics in this post.
Mnemonics is the study of memory and typically anything related to memory work tends  to be quite boring, frustrating and in general pretty difficult. Well, the good news is that this does not have to be the case. Memorising anything can be simple, quick and fun.
In a moment I am going to teach you how to remember a list of items. However, before I do, I just want to make you aware of some psychological memory biases (these are funny little mental quirks that people tend to have, some you’ll recognise and think, oh yeah, and some others will, hopefully, be new to you.)
So here we go:
Hindsight bias (you should know this one): the inclination to see past events as being predictable; also called the "I-knew-it-all-along" effect. This one is really annoying when other people experience it.
Google effect: This is the tendency to forget information that is easily retrievable on the internet. Watch out for this one. As a general rule of thumb, if you are looking up the same information more than 5 times a year, you should probably memorise it.
And now for some that are a little stranger:
Illusory correlation – inaccurately seeing a relationship between two events related by coincidence. You would be surprised at how often that happens. Here Ireland a lot of people attribute the good weather we experience around this time of year to the fact that 50,000 2nd level students are sitting their Leaving Cert exams (similar to GCSEs for UK readers)
Tip of the tongue phenomenon: when a subject is able to recall parts of an item, or related information, but is frustratingly unable to recall the whole item. This is thought to be an instance of "blocking" where multiple similar memories are being recalled and interfere with each other. If you are experiencing this, lets say it’s the name of an actor, the best strategy is to focus on things related to the actor, what films was he in? What scandals was he part of etc? This will trigger his name quicker than trying to remember it outright.
Okay, I’ll just reference 2 more before it gets boring:
List-length effect: a smaller percentage of items are remembered in a longer list, but as the length of the list increases, the absolute number of items remembered increases as well. Weird huh!
And last but not least,
Memory inhibition: When shown some items from a list it makes it harder to retrieve the other items.
So if you have a shopping list, the longer the list the more items you will remember but if someone mentions a few items on the list, you may not be able to remember anything else on the list!!
So one strategy would be to write a really long shopping list and get someone to tell you to remember the few key items you really want to buy.
Sounds crazy, that’s because it is, I’ll show you a much better way to remember everything on a list of any length 100% of the time.
Shopping for wonders
So, my list is not going to be a shopping list, but you could use this method for just that.
We are going to attempt to memorise 7 wonders of the ancient world.
Just mentally check if you can recall them. You will probably get one of them, maybe 2 or 3 but probably no more.
To do this we need to mentally learn off a journey in our head. A simple one like home to work or your house to a friend’s house, it does not really mater, once you have physically taken the journey lots of times and can visualize it in your head.
To describe this I will use my own route, you just need to super-impose the method onto your own journey and tweak the descriptions to suit the journey you develop.
Let’s begin
So starting at my house I mentally picture my house in the shape of a big yellow pyramid with a rough looking guy standing at the gate trying to sell me stuff, he’s a geezer (english slang for a streetwise guy) you could also picture a geyser spewing hot water into the air.
So this picture is The Great Pyramid at Giza
At the next point in my journey (which is a neighbours house I pass) I see their front garden is hanging suspended by a chain, there are also several babies sitting on the lawn crying. This is of course The Hanging Gardens of Babylon
Next stop, is a friend’s house (quite a sporty family by the way, the father was once an olympic contender) and outside in the garden is a big statue of a person with gold shoes. This is The Statue of Zeus at Olympia
Next stop is the Catholic church around the corner, there is lots of paintings on display on the steps and Jesus is looking at them and pondering the art work. This is The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
On to our 5th wonder which is at a crossroads with a pedestrian crossing. Climbing up the lamppost is a mouse licking molasses off the post and he jumps onto a rope ladder hanging off a helicopter and is flown away. This is The Mausoleum of Mollassus at Halicarnasus
On to another crossroads there is a big metal statue 6 stories high, it is The Collosus at Rhodes
Our final stop is my friend Alex’s house, All the lights are on and it is quite blinding, it is of course The Lighthouse at Alexandria
That is the 7 wonders of the ancient world memorised using the journey method. Now, this will be in your short term memory for a few hours after one memorisation, but to get this into your longterm memory you need to use spaced repitition. It only takes about 20 seconds but later on today, once a day for a week, then less frequently until it is just once every few months, run through the journey in your head and you will have no problem recalling the 7 wonders at any time. I usually run through my memory journeys whilst going to sleep at night.
Some other things I’ve learned using this method  include:
The periodic table, the 10 longest rivers in the world (incl. their length) and Shakespeare’s 37 pieces of work in the order they were written.
There are other, slightly more complicated methods I use which I might go through in another blog post, these are used to memorise decks of cards, 100 binary digits, phone numbers etc., till then, enjoy using the journey method.
Next week I’ll discuss some interesting items realted to my favourite topic ‘coincidence’, in the meantime let me know how you get on memorising the 7 wonders  in the comments section or if you need help memorising anything, let me know and I can develop a  simple strategy for you.
Best Regards,

Thursday, June 6, 2013


Hi and welcome to my new blog 'Mental Miscellany'. These blog posts will be a mishmash of interesting topics, stories and my own experiences relating to mentalism. Topics such as mnemotechnics, psychology, reading people, hypnotism and my favourite; coincidence.

Just as a little taster, I'd like you to consider the following:

When making a choice or decision, what difference would it make if you new the outcome? Quite a difference I am sure!

Now consider this, what difference would it make if someone else was making a choice and you could foretell the decision they would make?

Very often we know what choice a person will make, it is like we have a built in mind reading mechanism. We don't know how we know but we do.
This mechanism is basically our subconscious mind picking up on signals and playing out scenarios on our behalf, coming to a conclusion and delivering it to our conscious mind.

So what if you could tap into this subconscious mechanism at will, kick off the process when ever you need it.
Its possible, takes some training, concentration and patience, but it is possible
The end result would be that it would feel to you that the other person has no choice, that there can be only one outcome. Cool eh.

Another weird thing that can be done is to manipulate the subconscious decision making process. When done right the other person still feels like they have a choice but in reality they don't.

The funny thing is that by just reading this blog you have allowed me to highjack your subconscious decision making process ;-)

And I'll prove it,

In a moment, clear your mind. I'm going to ask a question. Don't think about the answer just let your mind give it to you.

Ok, Clear your mind.
Go with the first answer your brain gives you.
Name a colour
Now make note of it and in my next blog I'll tell you what colour you 'decided' to pick!

That's all for now.

In my next post I'll also discuss some of my adventures in the world of mnemonics.

Till then

Best regards