Jay Olson is a student of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, but he also has an interesting side job that has come increasingly into play with his studies: performing magic tricks. As part of a paper recently published in Consciousness and Cognition, Olson conducted research that revealed how subtle environmental factors can strongly influence decisions with astounding predictability.
Like any good magician’s tricks, these cues are almost imperceptible to the human brain and rely on skillful sleight-of-hand as well as audience reading. Further research by people like Olson can help break through the hidden codes used in society, such as how advertisers influence buying behavior or politicians sway voters’ opinions. And while the techniques used by magicians will remain a secret, added transparency as to how our thoughts can be shepherded to a particular choice can help further understanding of the human brain and group communication. Continue reading