Yesterday a colleague and I were talking about ‘psychological illusionist’ Derren Brown, who is currently in the second year of his Svengali tour.
Brown is known for his performances that combine magic, suggestion, psychology and misdirection in order to seemingly predict and control human behaviour. He is also known for his mind-bending feats of ‘mentalism’, and it is this that particularly interests me.
As a member of a past audience, my colleague who had been to a recent performance was sworn to secrecy so as not to spoil it for others, but he did reveal one thing. Before the start of the show, the audience was asked to write down something incredibly embarrassing about themselves. Around 100 or so of the 1,000-strong crowd did so and during the performance Brown pulled a couple out of a hat and attempted to guess who, out of everyone gathered, had made that particular confession.
Notwithstanding possible tricks – like plants in the audience – Brown managed to guess who had written these messages by first guessing the sex and approximate age of the author, before asking those still standing to deny it was them (with increasing vehemence).
Presumably by simply observing how they refuted it (by watching closely what they said and did), Brown was able to get it right each time.
Apparently more than 55 per cent of communication is made up with body language, so knowing what signs and signals to look for is a powerful aid. Imagine being able to tell in a negotiation or discussion with a stakeholder if they were holding something back or trying to mislead you? It must be a useful tool as well as a drain for Brown – sometimes, after all, ignorance is bliss.
• Brown and his team suggest some books, software and DVDs for helping you boost your brain here
• See ‘When Supply Management Met The Mentalist’ and some pointers on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) here and here