Derren Brown’s tips on being a psychic

Date:December 2, 2005 / year-entry #371
Orig Link:
Comments:    17
Summary:Magician and mentalist Derren Brown teaches us how we can all exercise our psychic powers, or at least use psychology to make people think we're psychic. The Video Clips page collects all the examples into one place for your viewing pleasure.

Magician and mentalist Derren Brown teaches us how we can all exercise our psychic powers, or at least use psychology to make people think we're psychic. The Video Clips page collects all the examples into one place for your viewing pleasure.

Comments (17)
  1. Brian says:

    boooo real player. I can’t believe that program still exists and people still encode things with it.

  2. Jay B says:

    I use Real Alternative, and Quicktime Alternative, to avoid all that mess of crap that the official software installs on your machine.

    Official site is:

  3. pmuhC says:

    If you think that was fun then search for "derren brown zombie game" in your favourite search engine and enjoy the flick.

    Enjoy (or feel sorry for the guy!)

  4. Brian says:

    I hate using real alternative / quicktime alternative because they are incredibly unstable. I gave it another download just now, thinking they may have fixed the issues, but sure enough it locked up my system on the 4thvideo.

  5. asdf says:

    I am a big fan of his work and love the fact that he helps expose psychics and New Agey ideas. I don’t like the fact that he makes it seem like he isn’t relying on heavy video editing, mentalist/magic tricks, and targeting extremely gullible people.

    And about the zombie game, Waking Dead, this is the guy that created it:

  6. Miles Archer says:

    That is the strangest thing I’ve ever seen. Talk about mind control

  7. Nick Lamb says:

    "I don’t like the fact that he makes it seem like he isn’t relying on heavy video editing, mentalist/magic tricks, and targeting extremely gullible people."

    Hmm, Derren is pretty open to discussing with people any possible dishonesty. For the shows like Russian Roulette he’s open and upfront about the selection process (in Russian Roulette it’s maybe 80% of the show, because the volunteer needs to be controlled for it to work) but for many others he’s used celebrities or people selected at random to avoid the "you picked gullible people" argument.

    It might seem, intuitively, as though only 10% of the population would fall for the events in Seance, but actually I’d guess it’s more than half, probably a lot more. People are naturally inclined towards magical thinking. That’s why the "bad guys" (people who claim to have real pyschic powers etc.) make so much loot. It’s what things like the "Alpha course" rely on too.

    Of course he uses "magic tricks", he’s a magician. If you Google around you’ll find that he had a really good conventional magic act which he gave up to play with the more psychological stuff. You can, if you’re a magician, buy his old act on video for inspiration/ research purposes.

    As to video editing, um, where do you think you’re seeing "heavy video editing" used ? In Seance? Roulette? The live outside work? I know Penn and Teller, among others, have demonstrated that you /can/ just bribe a live audience to lie about what they saw, but that’s not really Derren’s style. He’s not disappearing the Statue of Liberty or anything.

    Of course if you just meant that the TV show is going to offer more of Derren’s successes than his failures, that’s true enough but the failures don’t escape mention. He’s shown a trick going wrong more than once (and, there’s the Frisbee expert’s "Watch this!" effect in some of his tricks – if he doesn’t say what will happen you’ll accept any surprising outcome as the "desired" outcome, more good psychology)

  8. asdf says:

    Basically, what I mean is that he insists that he uses psychology when he really uses other methods (mostly simple mentalism tricks). This is a good article that explains it in more depth:

  9. Nick Lamb says:

    Well I think most of Simon Singh’s criticisms come back to a problem that many honest magicians have, Penn and Teller have ranted about it, as has James Randi, I think even Paul Daniels has mentioned it at some point. Showmanship pretty much demands that you lie to the audience during the act. You say the ball is under the cup, but actually it’s already up your sleeve. Now, after the act, and external to the act, its ethically necessary to be honest or else you end up a fraud (mentioning no Uri Gellers). Some people will leave saying "fraud" when they find out it’s a trick, and some will leave believing you have genuinely paranormal abilities despite any disclaimer. What’s an honest showman to do?

    So sure enough, Derren’s web site (and his off stage interviews) explicitly says he can’t read minds, he doesn’t have any way to "project thoughts" outside of the usual ones like talking to people. It says this a trick, a stage act. But in the act, Derren is going to say, "Now I will read this cab driver’s mind" just the same as he might once have said "Now I will make this object vanish".

    Personally, I enjoy knowing how the trick is done, and it doesn’t spoil things for me at all. Apparently on the whole paying audiences disagree though.

    I do agree with Singh that Channel 4 are wrong to present Mind Control as science in the same context that a nature documentary is science, although I understand that placement on one level, people like Derren Brown are an antidote to the magical thinking of popular shows like "Most Haunted". You can’t go up against that with a dry documentary on the physics of flight, but you can with Scrapheap Challenge.

    I still don’t get the video editing reference though, Singh doesn’t seem to mention it yet it’s what really made me pick up on your original comment.

  10. @asdf: It’s not true to say that he "he insists that he uses psychology when he really uses other methods." At the start of each show he states clearly that "I achieve these effect through a combination of psychology, showmanship and trickery" (or some such phrase). I’ve seen him live and he also made that statement at the start of the show.

    In the live show he also performed tricks where he convinced the audience that he was using psychology until, at the end, he revealed exactly how he had instead used conjuring, the psychology being merely that of making us believe he was using psychology. For some parts of the show I was able to identify in advance certain techniques of both conjuring and psychological suggestion that he was using, but his showmanship is such that the trick was still mind-blowingly entertaining – and he’d often reveal an aspect to it I hadn’t anticipated.

    As for the Simon Singh article you cite: well,it reminds me of why I don’t read the Daily Telegraph. Does Singh really believe that Channel 4 are claiming that a show broadcast at 10pm on Friday (a slot formerly occupied by Frasier) is science? It’s entertainment, and Singh’s hand-wringing concern for us poor dullards who thought we were witnessing a scientific breakthrough sandwiched between Friends and The Osbornes is so patronising that I see a lucrative career move to the Daily Mail in Mr Singh’s future.

  11. Manip says:

    In my opinion there are ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ things in magic too… Basically there are two "rules" that a magician shouldn’t break:

    Rule #1: Camera Tricks

    Rule #2: Fake Audience (Paid/Actors)

    But that has nothing to do with Darren Brown (unless he breaks #1 or #2).

    The problem with DB is that he doesn’t represent it as magic, he doesn’t stand on stage and say – "I’m going to trick you" – and then do so. He says, "this isn’t a magic trick, this is psychology" – which it isn’t.

    Even if it was psychology could this be defined as science? I don’t think it can.. Because you don’t learn anything. This is entertainment pure and simple.

    Can something be science *AND* entertainment? I believe so… For example the live human autopsy on Channel 4. It wasn’t my taste in programming but to those that enjoy learning about the human body it was both entertaining and they learnt something.

  12. Rob Mueller says:

    I found the site both interesting and annoying. It’s nice to see the "tricks" being sold as a form of psychology/mentalism and not some other magic, it still felt disappointingly empty to implaces. I haven’t seen a whole show, so I’m not sure how long or what format it takes, but I was curious to actually know more in depth about how some of them were performed, how many successful vs failed attempts there were, etc.

    Regarding the comment on editing, my partner did point out one scene that I hadn’t noticed. It was in the shoppping mall part. Most of the lead up footage shows people milling about the shopping center walking around quite quickly. But if you watch the very moment when he does the final line and says "…now", it cuts at that moment to an overview of a floor area and for the half a second you see it before he says now, it appears as if the people are just standing pretty still, not really moving around at all. In hindsight, it actually looks pretty staged, and if not by all the people, at least maybe by having half a dozen people in the crowd in the know raise their hand at the right moment. Maybe I’m being cynical about the show, but I guess at least that’s one of the things he’s asking us to actually do with the rest of the world, question people’s actions, motives and reasons rather than following the crowd and believing everything you see. Maybe we need a meta-Derren Brown… :)

  13. casper says:

    For any of you wondering, I can say from experience that neither of these rules

    Rule #1: Camera Tricks

    Rule #2: Fake Audience (Paid/Actors)

    have been broken. Well, at least not in the live show I saw with him up in Belfast a year or so ago.

    For instance, when he did audience participation, one of the methods he used to pick people was to turn his back to the audience and fling plastic boomerangs back into the crowd. I’d say that would be pretty difficult to fake. As for camera tricks, well I saw it live so there’s not much to hide behind there :)

    It’s not science, granted, but it is fun to watch.

  14. Joe O'Sullivan says:

    Watching the way in which he manipulates people never ceases to amaze me. Can the things you see be used in your normal life “Why not”. I am looking forward to this and I think this should be a very funny program.


  15. Phil says:

    Interesting yes…. but funny? Why funny?

Comments are closed.

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