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Mentalism has recently gone mainstream, so you might be wondering what it is all about. Understanding the basics of mentalism will help you understand why this practice transcends magic. There are many components of mentalism that would be helpful to know about, from being able to read minds to accurately predicting events into the future. 

As a performing art, mentalism is dedicated to matters of the mind and imagination. All who practice mentalism will take on the appearance of having some mental power that transcends the ordinary. Simple feats can wonder and amaze audiences big and small across the globe. 

While many people associate mentalism with magic, there is so much more to it than that. You will want to continue reading to learn the basics of mentalism and why so many people around the world have become adept at performing it. You will be amazed at how possible it is to begin reading the minds of people around you as you put mentalism to work for you. 

What is the Relationship Between Mentalism and the Brain?

Mentalism and the brain are interlinked. In order to be effective as a mentalist, the performer must effectively be able to trick the brain into seeing or believing something that really does not exist. Since the brain is such a powerful human organ capable of doing so much, you might wonder how it is possible that it can be so easily tricked. 

The key is to understand that the human brain is actually easy to trick. The right person can provide suggestions to others that are easily believed or followed. Images can be shown that appear to be moving when there is actually no motion involved at all. At its most basic level, this is what mentalism involves. 

The Act of Tricking the Brain

Tricking the brain takes on many different forms. One of the more classic examples is that of the placebo effect. Someone who is feeling sick believes that medicine will cure them. The act of taking one simple pill is often more effective than the medicine itself. Many people can be given a pill that contains no medicine at all and miraculously consider themselves cured. 

Matters of frequency can also be used to explained mentalism. People can be made to believe that paranormal events explain why some numbers seem to appear more frequently than others. An example would be the time 11:11. If a mentalist suggests that this time has some type of mystical significance, people will begin to see it more often than before. 

The examples just provided illustrate how simple it can be to trick the brain into believing something that is not necessarily true. These are powerful suggestions that can end up influencing the decisions that others make, so mentalism can also be seen as a force not to be taken lightly. 

The Roots of Mentalism

Mentalism has been practiced for thousands of years. We see it in the accounts of

  • Seers
  • Oracles
  • Supernatural events detailed in religious texts

You can even see mentalism as the basis of much of Greek mythology and literature. The lists can go on and on. If you are looking for the mentalist that likely spearheaded the modern movement, that figure would likely be Girolam Scotto. Back in 1572, he was the first known performer to use misdirection to show mental superiority over another. 

Contemporary forms of mentalism can be seen in the following activities: 

  • Cold reading
  • Telepathy
  • Hypnosis
  • Rapid math calculations
  • Clairvoyance
  • Psychokinesis

Each of the concepts allows the performer to misdirect others to suggest certain events and read body language to effectively stipulate what is going to happen next. 

Is Mentalism the Same as Magic?

While some may argue that mentalism is simply another form of magic, the reality is much different than that. Mentalism makes use of human psychology and body language in ways that magic never really approaches. In effect, mentalism has become a performing art that focuses almost entirely on the mind and imagination. 

Mentalists will be the first to tell you that they are not magicians. While magicians will use a variety of tools to trick their audience into seeing certain visual illusions aimed at deception, mentalism goes beyond that to make use of the powerful psychological concepts of suggestion and influence. Mentalism will get members of the audience involved in ways that magicians do not. 

Contrary to magic, there are not necessarily any illusions involved in mentalism. It is an art purely focused on the mind. This is why psychics focus on readings and acts of clairvoyance as opposed to visual tricks aimed at making the audience believe something that does not really exist. 

What Are Some Examples of Mentalism in Action?

If you are still trying to grasp the true intention of mentalism, think about the following example. You have probably seen a drawing of an animal that, depending on how you see it, looks like either a duck or a rabbit. This was made famous by a drawing in the Harper’s Weekly back 1892. Those who look at it can be easily persuaded to see one object or another. 

Colors can also be misinterpreted. There is the famous blue and black dress from 2015. Or, is it white and gold. You will see two different colors depending on how you look at the picture. This is the power of mentalism. The performer can lead the audience into seeing or believing anything that they want. Almost no topic is off limit, which can lead to hours of entertainment. 

Who Are Some Famous Mentalists?

While many people around the world today claim to be involved in the field of mentalism, the following three performers are considered to be the most famous. 

Derren Brown

He is arguably the most well-known mentalist in the world today. This is largely because he commands such a huge television audience in his role on the Mind TV series. He is able to use his skills of misdirection and showmanship to read minds and perform mental tricks that truly transcend all understanding. 

He uses a variety of tricks and stunts, the most famous of which actually tricked his audience into thinking that they were playing a part inside a video game. He has also had the audience believing that they are literally stuck to the seat. 

Uri Geller 

If you don’t know the name right off hand, you probably know Uri Geller by his ability to bend a spoon. He has developed quite a name for himself as he is able to make others think that a spoon is bending right in front of their eyes. Many believe that he also has psychic powers, with some going so far as suggesting that he consults with the CIA on certain high-profile cases. 

Bob Cassidy 

While Bob Cassidy passed away in 2017, he is still highly regarded as both a mentalist and psychic. He is one of the primary individuals that moved psychic abilities into the mainstream. He wrote 37 books on mentalism and psychic ability, so that is a great place to start if you are looking for more information on the topic. 


Now that you know more about mentalism, you should be able to better appreciate the mind tricks you see being performed. These are true feats of genius performed by individuals who have mastered the art of reading minds and predicting the future. You may even want to practice mentalism yourself. There are certainly ways to do that, so give it a try.