Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How Magic (and Scam) works: playing with your perceptions

Top hat as an icon for magic
Top hat as an icon for magic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Every seen the "vanishing ball" trick?

The magician throw the ball upward and few times, and catch it in the same hand, and each time his gaze follows the ball, up and down. Up and down.

Next time, he PRETENDS to throw the ball up, and his gaze move up just as if he did throw it... Except he did not actually throw it.

In test audiences, 2/3rds of the people SWORE the ball had left his hand, then vanished in thin air, even when it did NOT happen.

That is the power of suggestion, and playing with your perceptions.

Your brain says "look at the guy's face", then "follow the guy's gaze", and you do so, even when there's nothing to look at. And your MIND then constructed the details that you *thought* you saw, like the ball leaving the magician's hand.

He merely provided the framework to play with your expectations and perceptions. YOU filled in the details. And thus, you've been tricked. That's why magic is often called an illusion. It's NOT REAL, and you thought it was.

And scam works the same way: playing with your expectations and perceptions.

One way to play with your perceptions is to ask you to concentrate on one thing, while something else happens. There is the famous visual experiment where you are asked to count the number of passes on a basketball court, and half of the test subjects were concentrating so much they completely missed a gorilla (okay, a girl in a gorilla suit) walking across the screen.  You can see the video here:

Did you watch it to the end? What did you miss?  No peeking now. (If you really want to know, scroll to the end of the video)

Scams often do this, by insisting that you ignore "negativity" and concentrate only on the things THEY want you to look at. In the invisible gorilla video, people concentrated so hard on the moving ball, they missed the gorilla (among other things). And that happened only in a minute or so.

So what will you miss and not see, if a scammer play with your perceptions like that? What if you are seeing what they *want* you to see, and what you *expect* to see, and not at things that may be far more important, like signs of a scam?

Take the ZeekRewards Ponzi for example. Their COVER STORY (i.e. what they *want* you to see) is a penny auction business, supposedly very profitable, and to share in those profits you do something that's trivial. And you can also make hundreds, thousands, TENS OF THOUSANDS a month! Some are making a million a month! You *expect* to see profits, and you *saw* profits, at least what you expected.

So what sort of details they do NOT want you to see? Things that include: they are operating illegal unregistered investment, their auctions in no way generate enough profit to be paying 100 million a month, and so on and so forth. They are playing with your perceptions and expectations.

Magic and illusions are not real, but they don't really hurt you.

Scams will hurt you.

Did you know that Paul R. Burks, head of Zeek Rewards Ponzi scheme, was a trained magician? No, I am NOT making this up.

Clearly, he knows exactly what he wanted you to see, and it's NOT reality.

If you see EXACTLY what you expected to see, then something is probably NOT right. Beware.
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