Elias Garcia-Pelegrin started studying magic as a college student. At that time, he had to perform as a part-time job to earn money to make ends meet. Yet now with a doctorate and a full-time research job at Cambridge University, Garcia-Pelegrin is still performing magic.
Only thing, this time his audience is special. They don’t have the money to pay him and are not sure what he is doing. That’s right, Garcia-Pelegrin is performing magic on animals. They are birds that live in the Nicky Clayton Cognitive Comparison laboratory.
Work may seem meaningless at first, but Garcia-Pelegrin and colleagues have just published a scientific paper in the prestigious Science journal about the cognitive matrices in the minds of humans and animals.
It turns out, animals in general possess these “cognitive blind spots“, a place where magicians have long used to make us admire their repertoire.
The idea of a research topic investigating animal responses to human magic came by accident, when Garcia-Pelegrin spoke to his instructor – a scientist who was also talented and ever Going to magic shows for over 10 years. They talked about the role of magic in human cognitive studies.
There has been a lot of research up until now on how our brains respond to tricks to explain why our eyesight or mind are easily deceived.
“We know humans in general can be deceived by magic effects – otherwise magicians will be unemployed.“That means no matter who you are, a child, an adult, a manual worker or even a professor at Cambridge, your brain can be deceived,” says Garcia-Pelegrin. by magic tricks.
The opposite question is now: “Can magic trick animals? And if so, what does that mean about their attention processes and cognitive processes?“, Garcia-Pelegrin said.
Magic tricks us like?
For humans, any magic trick that wants to be effective must reach a delicate balance, where the viewer is put into a false expectation or direction. Suppose, when a magician grabs his hand and makes the coin in his hand disappear, he must make movements that make the audience expect that the coin is still in it, can not be lost.
But at the same time, the magician must also direct the audience’s attention away in a decisive moment, there, he takes the coin out of his hand, then leads them back to expectation that it is. still in it.
However, all this calculated deception must be in a set that Garcia-Pelegrin calls “k.enchantment magic“(magical framework). This framework lies in human perception, which contains a series of blind spots about our attention.
Magic effect studies on the human brain essential to finding all the blind spots in the magical framework. However, because our brains and human perception are so complex, the blind spots in our minds are also very small and fragmentary, it is difficult to group them into a framework.
Moving research subjects down to animals can now help scientists find large areas where perceptions of all species can be deceived by magic, including humans. . The work is now turned to a simple general problem, before diving into a very complex variation of it.
And that is why Garcia-Pelegrin is performing magic on his lab animals.
Check out the video below:
How do animals react to human magic tricks?
You may have seen on YouTube a lot of similar videos, in which animals like monkeys, chimpanzees, dogs, cats, and even birds react to magic acts. You think that as long as the animals have vision, they will be attracted and gasped at our sublime tricks.
But was the animal’s gag, and the curious act of finding a coin or their disappearing piece of cake a real reaction? “This issue is really complicated“, Garcia-Pelegrin explains.
When people sit in a magic show, their experience is established by a number of well-understood factors: For example, the magician automatically appears on stage as an entertainer. , not a threat.
People understand that an object that disappears before their eyes is part of the joy. Because on a certain aspect, the audience is also participating in the magic game. If the show doesn’t have an audience, the magician won’t need to set the stage’s perspective, nor do any tricks.
And since we know that magic tricks are only magic and not actual magic, we show our amazement and admiration to the magician rather than fearing them like a witch. “Magic is only great that way because you know that the magician cannot harm you“, Garcia-Pelegrin said.
That means a magic show seemingly harmless to humans could contain unknown side effects affecting animals. Garcia-Pelegrin said when he performed magic with animals, he often had to use food as a bait for attention.
“If you make food disappear in front of an animal, it can be more annoying than surprising“, Says Garcia-Pelegrin. But that doesn’t mean animals can’t recognize the magic show – it’s a completely different result and you need rigorous experiments to test this, not the video on Youtube.
Magic in the laboratory
Measuring how animals respond to distraction, hallucinations, and dexterity of the hand can reveal specific traits of their perception.
Garcia-Pelegrin says: “Magic is an invasion of expectation in its purest form. If you get used to flying objects or objects that disappear in mid-air, then magic won’t surprise you at all.”
Therefore, animals participating in research need to understand certain concepts, even at a basic level based on intuition. For example, a monkey needs to understand gravity, that everything is sucked to the ground and cannot float itself in the air.
And even, each animal has different intuitions. Imagine you perform a game of man flying with a bird, what does that mean for them?
For humans, previous studies have shown a classic magic repertoire in which an object is made to disappear based on the audience’s expectations of what will happen, and at the same time even the social cues the magician gives.
For animals, Garcia-Pelegrin is repeating similar tests to see if past experience or present expectations can make them enjoy magic?
He and other scientists are working on this at Cambridge’s Comparative Cognitive Laboratory. Researchers in the lab are investigating how animals’ cognitive abilities vary between species, including members of the family of crows and cephalopods.
As Garcia-Pelegrin explains, experimenting with how an animal reacts to a vanishing object can bring up new ideas about an animal’s expectations, and whether human body language affects the dynamic object. object or not. You can see an example of this kind of trick – with a peanut instead of a balloon disappearing:
Garcia-Pelegrin performed a magic show with a bird audience
To be able to understand and be amazed at such a trick, an animal needs to understand the existence of an object. They need to know that a peanut cannot be born on its own or disappears from reality.
That is what a human being can learn from a young age. But can animals understand that?
Experiments with vanishing physical magic are now helping Garcia-Pelegrin and scientists to answer that question, in order to find parallel mechanisms between human and animal perception.
In nature, animals also know how to do magic
Yes, magic tricks are not exclusive to mankind. Even in the wild, some animals know how to do magic in one form or another.
They also know how to use distracting tricks to manipulate the attention of their audience, in this case their enemies. The deceived animals are pulled out of the mechanical mechanisms behind an illusion that is the effect of deception.
Chimpanzees and birds are professional magicians in the field.
Animal behavior researchers said chimpanzees could use one “deception“, in which, their gazes are directed at a target to seduce their competition to do the same, while they will perform another hidden move, possibly stealing food.
Jays protect their food from thieves by pretending to hide them in an empty spot. They stuck their beaks into the ground as if they were hiding food here, but they were actually hiding them somewhere else.
And since these tactics work in nature, animals also seem to have evolved to understand their own magical framework, allowing them to exploit blind spots in the enemy’s attention.
If this can be demonstrated by controlled laboratory trials, Garcia-Pelegrin will have a solid basis to conclude that animals can also enjoy magic. They also know how to surprise, admire, and not feel fear.
Who knows, one day we might sell tickets to magic birds.
Refer Science, Inverse