He is known for his mind reading feats as well as for predicting and controling human behavior. Some think he is using NLP, others believe that he has genuine psychic abilities. Only one thing is certain: whatever he does, he is damn good at it. While studying law in Bristol, Derren got increasingly interested in hypnosis after he saw a live hypnosis show by Martin Taylor.

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Published on Sat 16 Dec Following in the footsteps of the renowned TV illusionist, they may impress you with their super-power memory by reciting the FA Cup winners for the last 20 years: though "for real impact, it is worth stretching this to 50 years".

They may spring upon you time-worn puzzles in probability theory. They may hypnotise you, and suggest you forget your name. Expert readers of body language, they will know the blow is coming, just by the way you clench your fist. Derren Brown gives us fair warning: "If the techniques and thoughts in this book are new to you, there will be a tendency to be excited about them and want to show off what you have learned.

But he is interesting, and convincing, when he writes about the psychology of delusion. His shows, he says, involve "deception and exaggeration You become committed to its process; you are complicit, and your attention moves as directed.

It is natural, when we are surprised, to exaggerate the oddity and wonder of our experience. The truth of what happened is soon replaced by a "lovely false memory". Brown debunks himself, pre-emptively, and undercuts his cleverness with facetious asides.

He wants to be seen as thoughtful, ethical, and self-deprecating, and is certainly the latter. The central problem with his book is that the phenomena he looks at become less, not more interesting as he describes them. His pages on irrationality feel like a boiled-down version of other texts, perhaps not read with much attention. If you write on luck and chance, should you not check the meaning of "fortuitous"? If you crusade against the exploitation of the credulous, should you know what "disinterested" means?

And these days, even writers with no magic powers have a spell-check. Are these points worth making? Yes, because this book of weak jokes is serious in aim; he wants to straighten out the way we think. Some aspects of English grammar are a dark mystery to him. These aside, he seems to have got life worked out to his satisfaction. An evangelical Christian as a teenager in Croydon, he has not understood that belief may take more subtle forms than those Croydon offered him.

Brown is fascinated by how human beings work, but the flow of scepticism is all one way. He has faith in the objectivity of scientists and in the peer-review process, neglecting to say that in science you get what you pay for. So heads I win and tails you lose. Though he makes a good living as an entertainer, is Brown really up for fun?

The more the debunkers stamp and shout "These are the laws of nature", the more some of us hope they will be broken. The psychic trade a stench in the nose of rationalist piety is full of frauds, for sure, and lottery tickets are a government-sponsored racket.

But the sentiment that "It Could Be You" is incontrovertible, and hope keeps people going. Psychics are soft targets and there seems no point in attacking them and their audiences, or any other group of believers, without noting the social context in which belief flourishes.

We are not good at thinking about coincidences - nowadays we tend to call them "ironies" - but we like them because they seem to subvert the good order of the world, and they make us laugh. Superstitions unite and demarcate communities. A group of people praying together, or telling each other ghost stories, are engaged in an emotional bonding exercise of considerable social utility. Brown does not see this, and thinks religion is just for poor saps who need comfort.

If you want to start an argument this Christmas, this is your book; and you could do worse than look at the "suggested reading", though the main suggestion is that you read Richard Dawkins, whose recent The God Delusion is to our Derren a holy book. He mentions the scientist many times, and I hope that no intellectual snobbery prevents the admiration from being reciprocated. It would be gratifying to think that Professor Dawkins will work through these pages keenly and add to his repertoire of card tricks, which will be the talk of north Oxford well into the new year.


Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind

Skepticisme[ bewerken brontekst bewerken ] Brown is evenals mede-illusionisten zoals Criss Angel en James Randi een fervent voorvechter van het wetenschappelijk skepticisme. De Brit keurt elke claim van bovennatuurlijke gaven af, tenzij degene die de claim maakt, toestaat zijn beweerde gave wetenschappelijk te laten testen. In zijn boek Tricks of the Mind evenals in zijn show Messiah toont Brown aan dat veel mensen snel bereid zijn om illusies te aanvaarden als bovennatuurlijke gaven, terwijl ze niets meer te zien krijgen dan trucs die hen simpelweg niet bekend zijn. Hij legt daarin verschillende psychologische technieken uit die zelfverklaarde paranormalen en mediums gebruiken om hun publiek te misleiden. De meest gebruikelijke techniek die Brown daarbij onder de aandacht brengt, is het zogenaamde cold reading. Een techniek die hij zelf ook demonstreert in zijn show Messiah. Hij deed dit door voorafgaand aan de trekking een rij van zes ballen met door hemzelf gekozen getallen op een hardplastic standaard te zetten.


Tricks Of The Mind

It was a difficult birth - his mother was in Devon at the time. Derren went on to study Law and German at Bristol University and fell in love with the city. This was a time when marriage between man and city was still frowned upon, so rather than face public derision Derren decided just to live there forever instead. During this time he began to perform magic in bars and restaurants, and gave occasional hypnosis shows.


Derren Brown: Trick of the Mind


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