Watch this video and describe what you see (it’s a Windows Media file, so if you’ve got a Mac, you’ll need Flip4Mac):
What happened to the ball? Just watch the movie once, then give your response in the poll:
This movie is one of the stimuli for an experiment by Gustav Kuhn and Michael Land, which tries to understand why we are fooled by magic tricks. Because the magician looks up, many viewers are led to believe that he threw the ball off screen. In fact, he palms the ball. In a second video, he looks at his hand instead of up in the air.
In both cases, some people who saw the video claimed they perceived the ball flying off the top of the screen after the fake throw, based on their answers to a questionnaire, the researchers report in the November 21 Current Biology. Participants were nearly twice as likely to experience the illusion when Kuhn looked up on the last throw than when he looked at his hand. “That tells us it’s due to expectations,” Kuhn explains. His gaze was crucial in causing the illusion because it cued the expectations of the watchers, he says.
Participants’ eyes, in contrast, apparently were not fooled. The researchers tracked the gazes of those viewing the videos: during the first two throws viewers’ eyes followed the ball to the top of the screen, whereas on the fake throw their eyes were fixated primarily on Kuhn’s face.
A criticism of the study expressed in the article is that only half of participants ever saw the illusion. When I watched the movie, I thought the trick was so obvious that I couldn’t imagine anyone seeing it, so that’s why I created the poll. Soon, we’ll have a good idea of how many CogDaily readers can see it.
To me, however, whether or not the observers were fooled by the trick, it’s still fascinating that their eyes moved to the juggler’s face when he palmed the ball.
In other news: