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The mystery behind mentalism magic is exactly what makes it so captivating. Once upon a time,  a magician was supposed to keep all of their tricks a secret. With the rising popularity of mentalism magic, there's an increase in interest, so regular people can learn how it works. 

In general, mentalism magic is based on understanding human psychology and sociology, along with superb interpersonal skills, to correctly guess details about selected people. Once you know the core concepts of mentalism magic, you can easily distinguish it from other forms of magic. And maybe even practice mentalism yourself. 

Mind reading and psychic abilities are cool but unreal. However, with mentalism, one can use intellect to appear to be reading minds and even controlling minds. Keep on reading to find out what mentalism magic is, what it isn't, and some beginner's mentalism games you can try for yourself.

What is Mentalism Magic

The human brain is an astonishing organ. The human brain processes huge quantities of information through the five senses. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing allow us to take in information from the real physical world into our minds. 

The brain is also easy to trick.  From optical illusions to placebo effects to confirmation bias, the brain easily believes in the wrong information. This is why suggestions, either direct or indirect, can powerfully influence our brains, whether we know it or not. Mentalism magic takes the power of this.

Here's what mentalism magic is:

  • Most mentalists don't consider themselves to be magicians. They focus more on reading minds or predicting the future.
  • Mentalism resembles the art of mindreading; the keyword here is “resemble.” In reality, mentalists don't read minds. 
  • Nevertheless, mentalism can make the performing mentalist seem as if they truly have extraordinary mental abilities. 
  • Many mentalists avoid incorporating common magic tricks or magic props into their performances. 
  • Mentalism focuses on the imagination of the mind. 

Who Practices Mentalism Magic

The performers of mentalism magic are called mentalists. It takes some natural and earned talent to become a worthy mentalist. Read below to learn what truly defines a mentalist.

Characteristics of a Mentalist

The qualities of a mentalist are what make the difference between a good mentalist and a great mentalist. Some of the necessary traits of a mentalist are inborn, while most of the necessary traits are learned.

  • A mentalist is someone who performs mental tricks for entertainment purposes.
  • A mentalist may be referred to as a magician performing as a mind reader.
  • A mentalist is someone who studies or practices the art of magic techniques under the mentalism category.
  • A mentalist, when performing, seems to have higher mental abilities than the general population
  • Great mentalists have certain personality traits: curiosity, friendly, charismatic, courteous, and very likable. 
  • A splendid mentalist in a crowd is kind of like the super cool kid everyone wanted to be friends with at school.
  • Great mentalists also have these abilities and talents: interpersonal skills, quick on their feet and swift, amazing observational skills, and general great eyesight.
  • All in all, a mentalist is a performance artist

Principles of Being a Mentalist

There are some specific rules and methods that talented mentalists will incorporate into their performances as if it is their second nature.

  • The mentalist will make many accurate inferences about a selected participant or subject. 
  • These inferences are based on body language, and voice tone, and other nonverbal cues. 
  • With the collected inferences, the mentalist can carry on a conversation or performance and make it seem like they are reading the participant or subject's mind.
  • For example, the mentalist will discover where a person is from just by looking at the clothes the person is wearing, the accent the person is speaking in, and so forth.
  • Impressive and skilled mentalists will be able to figure out the person's past experiences, hidden secrets, and life choices.

Types of Mentalism

Just as mentalism is a branch of magic, mentalism itself has its subcategories. Different types of mentalism depend on how much free will the audience or particular subject has during the mentalist's performances

  • Just as there are different kinds of magicians, there are also different kinds of mentalism performers.
  • A mentalist performs and practices technical skills, cold reading, misdirection, psychological illusions, and hypnosis or suggestions.
  • Other types of mentalism are telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and mind control.
  • Mentalists perform plausible acts. Their ordinary logical acts and abilities appear as extraordinary instances of telekinesis, mind-reading, future prediction, or clairvoyance.

What is the Difference Between Mental Magic and Mentalism?

Sure, mentalism and magic are often thought of as similar, but there are some key differences that separate the two. Here's a closer look at a direct comparison between mental magic and mentalism:

Mental MagicMentalism Magic
Mental magic encourages you to suspend your disbelief. This is because mental magic is more about illusions and distractions.A skilled magician will use body language to misdirect the audience's attention as they use their fast-moving dexterous hands to make “magic.” Magicians will showcase magician's tricks. For example, pulling a rabbit out of a hat or cutting a woman's body into four pieces and putting it back together again. Magicians typically need more props, a stage, and so on. Magicians are seeming to do the impossible. Magicians will leave the audience wondering, “How did you do that?” Mental magic is about action in the physical world; hence it is more about “doing.” A magician's performance revolves around something appearing to happen that cannot happen according to the laws of physics and real-world science.A mental magic performance tends to be a captivating and astonishing illusion; it is a display that brings out wonder.A magician does a mind-tricking illusion that looks believable, but the audience does not believe in it.Mental magic means magic tricks, where the presentations are based on physics phenomena.Mentalism encourages you to believe. This is because the foundation of mentalism magic is logic and physics and so on.A mentalist will mostly apply their verbal language and observational skills to perform incredible feats. This is done by deeply observing the subjects and making inferences based on subtle body language while also guiding the conversation in a way that seems like a mind-reading activity is occurring.Mentalists will make the audience believe in their psychic power or just impress the audience with their incredible guessing power.Mentalists tend to focus more on real-world techniques like personal interactions, creating a narrative, and so on.Mentalists are doing something that is simply very improbable.Mentalists will leave the audience wondering, “How did you know that?”Mentalism is more about knowledge in the mental world. It is more about “knowing.”A mentalist's performance revolves around something that could happen but has a very slim chance of happening, but the mentalist makes it happen repeatedly. A mentalism performance boils down to a guided tour of the audience's imaginations.A mentalist does activities that have plausible explanations. This makes it more believable and awe-striking.Mentalism means the demonstration of mental abilities that feel like psychic abilities.

How Does Mentalism Magic Work?

Mentalism magic is knowledge and skills under psychology and sociology. When a mentalist knows enough about the human mind and general population, they can learn to put in their interpersonal skills to perform mentalism.

A Quick Rundown of Mentalism 

Mentalism is a form of magic. However, unlike the out-of-this-world magic, in mentalism, the performer uses intellect and intuition about a specific topic or person. The mentalist then uses their wit to gather information about the specific topic or person and presents this collected information as “magic” to the audience.

Why is it Called “Mentalism Magic?”

As the name suggests, mentalism magic is mental play. When you understand the “magic” behind mentalism, mentalism might become predictable and bland for you to watch. You might even grow a distaste for it. This is because the great impressive tricks will become small, simple tricks.

Mentalism Magic as a Performance

Mentalism magic is a performing skill that makes a mentalist appear more amazing is how they don't expose all their gleaned information until right at the end. 

Commonly, a mentalist will show the audience small feats of their observational skills. These small feats keep their audience hooked. Then just before the performance finishes, the mentalist will shock the audience by giving out deeper information about the participant or subject. The information is usually very personal and intimate. 

The performance a mentalist plays is similar to a good movie, keeping you wanting to know and see more, and finally a climax.

Interesting Behind the Scenes Facts About How Mentalism Works

Now you know the basics of mentalism. In reality, mentalism magic is not magic at all. It is just very spectacular guesswork:

  • Most mentalists do not hide the fact that their performances are majorly guesswork. 
  • Their guessing ability is really what is most magical about them and their acts. 
  • Mentalists do not make random guesses. They are smarter than that.
  •  Mentalists have the skills to find signs that allow them to make intelligent guesses.
  • Big and obvious clues and more subtle clues aid a mentalist. For example, they will look into their subject's information from their clothes to the twitches of their eyes. 
  • These nonverbal signs, along with the ongoing verbal conversation, allow the mentalist to make educated guesses about the subject. 

Mentalism is also a process that uses forced thoughts. Here are a few key points on how mentalists use these forced thoughts in their practice:

  • One way a mentalist will perform is by “forcing” a thought onto their subject. Then “guessing” that thought, as if the subject thought of it all by herself or himself.
  • A thought is forced onto a selected participant by the mentalist. Then the mentalist pretends to guess that thought. It appears as if the mentalist is a mind reader.
  • A thought can be forced upon whenever a participant makes an unavoidable choice. 
  • Choosing a letter or a number, or a name is a common example of forced thought mentalism. The participant and audience believe the participant made a free choice. When in reality, the mentalist leads the subject to choose the letter or number.

Mentalists can also perform with their subjects having actual free choice. This is another level of mystery that mentalists use to captivate the audience:

  • The participant genuinely thinks a thought freely. This thought is not forced upon indirectly or directly.
  • The mentalist needs to collect enough information through wit, or deceit, or both.
  • For example, a mentalist can use deceit by pickpocketing the selected participant's wallet to collect information and then returning the wallet without getting caught.
  • Mentalism performances where the participant or subject has a fully free choice are much more interesting, entertaining, and remarkable.

Mentalism Magic Tricks that You Can Try Today

Generally speaking, there are simple mind tricks that fall under mentalism magic. These do not measure up to the performances of skilled and talented mentalists. 

Nevertheless, there are fun and easy mentalism magic tricks anyone can do if they learn how to. The following examples are perfect for beginner mentalists too.

The Digital Mind Reading Trick

Social media and wifi make this trick possible. Using the digital online platform is a great way to learn details about a stranger's life. You can turn a basic profile screening into a mind-boggling mentalist performance.

There is a plethora of information on people's private lives that we can access today with just a few clicks. In this digital age, you can use social media and the internet to play a mental magic performance yourself.

  1. Go to a public location where strangers are sitting or standing close to each other.
    – Examples of such places are small malls, parks, airports, cafes, and restaurants.
  2. You need to be in a location where people are very likely to give a “check-in” on their social media.
  3. Log into your social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and go to the public location's check-in page.
  4. See who has checked into this place very recently. Then try to see if any of those people are around you right now.
  5. If you find a few people, or even one person, who is a stranger to you, who is in the checked-in location, try to collect their information from their profile.
  6. In their profiles, you can find blatant information like their names and the schools they attend or used to attend.
  7. You may also find more personal information through their social profiles, like if they had a recent breakup or their horoscope.
  8. Once you are confident you have gathered some information about your subject, you need to turn on your social skills.
    – Say hello to the person and politely ask if you can “read their minds,” aka do a mentalism performance.
  9. If they permit you, ask them questions very generally. Questions such as…
    “Is your name —?”
    “Is it possible that you went to — school?”
    “Is your horoscope perhaps —?”

How to Make Your Digital Mind-Reading Mentalist Performance Great

As a performer, you need to act like you are really guessing all this information out of thin air, and it is taking you some effort to do so.

  • Have some conversational lines in between the guessing you do. 
  • Ask questions that have nothing to do with the information you are guessing in the conversation.
    – For example, ask if they had a good day, if they like coffee or tea and whether they like to take walks every day. 
  • Then “guess” a piece of personal information about them out of the blue.
  • To build suspense, “guess” the simpler information about your subject first and the more intimate details later.
    – For example, you want to expose a simpler detail like “You are from South Korea” before exposing a very intimate detail like “You are a huge fan of Adele because you have been cheated upon this year.”

Things to be Cautious of When Doing the Digital Mind Reading Mentalism Game

  • You want the subject's full permission before starting this game.
  • Even with full consent, you want to be sure you are not crossing any boundaries as you do this mentalism trick.
  • Be careful with extra personal information that can be emotionally sensitive. 
  • Remember, people also have fake profiles or don't disclose the truth always online. 
  • Remember that mentalists making minor wrong guesses makes them more believable if the overall performance is great.
  • Whether you tell the truth of how you got your subject's details (their online profiles) is totally up to you.

The Grey Elephant in Denmark Mentalism Trick

This is a fun and lighthearted mentalism game that you can do with almost anyone in any relaxed setting. The grey elephant in Denmark also comes across as a mind-reading trick. You can do this mentalism game on a one-member audience or multiple-member audience.

  1. You want to begin by asking everyone to think of a number between 1 to 10. You will advise everyone to keep their selected number in their heads and not speak it out. 
  2. Once everyone has chosen their numbers, you will ask them to multiply that number by 9. Once again, they are to keep this number silent and in their minds only. 
  3. Then you will advise them, If their new number is of two digits, they have to add those two numbers. If their new number is one digit, then they do not have to do anything.
  4. Finally, tell them to subtract five from the current number they have ended up with.
  5. Tell everyone to remember their final number. Now you can expand this mentalist trick. Tell them to associate the corresponding letter with their number.
  6. Ask each of the members to think of a country name that starts with their corresponding letter. 
  7. Ask everyone to think of the second letter of their chosen country, which begins with the letter D.
  8. Finally, tell the participants to find an animal for that letter and instruct them to visualize the animal, along with the color of that animal, in the country that begins with the letter D.
  9. Then right at the end, the Mentalist performer should confirm openly that more or less everyone is now imagining a “grey elephant in Denmark.”

Example of the Grey Elephant in Denmark Mentalist Trick

To understand the instructions better, here is an example of how one participant may go about with the given instructions. 

  • One may choose the number 7.
  • 7 multiplied by 9 is 63.
  • The digits of 63 added together is 9 (6 + 3).
  • 9 minus 5 is 4.
  • The associated letter with the number four is D.
  • A country with the letter D should be chosen, e.g., Denmark
  • An animal-based on the second letter of “Denmark,” e.g., Elephant

How the Grey Elephant in Denmark Mentalist Trick Works

Unless the instructions are wrong or unclear, or unless the participant is not very good at doing calculations in their heads, the final numerical answer should always be 4.

  • Due to mathematical concepts, the only logical and correct result for the numeral calculations is 4. 
  • This is what makes this trick a mentalism trick, not a magician's trick.
  • As for the country and animal, this part of the mentalism game is based solely on significant probability.
  • The majority of people tend to think of the country Denmark as “D.”
  • Most people tend to think of the animal Elephant for “E.”
  • Elephants are grey in color. This is why the mentalist reveals the word “grey,” too.

Things to be Cautious of When Doing the Grey Elephant in Denmark Mentalism Trick

There is always a chance that the subject may not guess Denmark, Elephant, or Grey. The chances of everyone coming to a thought of a grey elephant in Denmark go down even more when this mentalism game is performed in bigger groups.

Nonetheless, a few people guessing differently to “grey elephant in Denmark” works in the mentalist's favor because you want a high success rate more than you want a one hundred percent success.

The high rate is more human, more believable, and more in line with “mentalism magic” than a one hundred percent result.

If you want to, though, you can just do the numeric part of this game as every person should end up with only one answer, the number 4.

The Mentalism “Carrot” Game

This one is a much more simple and lighthearted mentalism game. This one is great for beginners or just a quick game if you are bored, or need to entertain a group of youth at a birthday party, and so on.

  1. For this carrot trick, you will write down the word “carrot” on a piece of paper. 
  2. Hide this paper in your pocket, or somewhere that is in your reach.
  3. If you want, you can also draw a carrot on that paper or print out a small image of an orange carrot.
  4. Now ask your subject to sit down, close their eyes, and slowly clear their mind.
  5. You will gently instruct your subject to count backward from 100 in their head. 
  6. Ask them to also imagine each number as they count backward.
  7. Allow your subject to count backward for ten to fifteen seconds. 
  8. Then ask them to name a vegetable.
  9. There is a high chance the participant will mention “Carrot.” 
  10. When they do mention the vegetable “carrot,” tell them to open their eyes and show them your piece of paper with the carrot written or drawn on it.

How Does the Mentalism “Carrot” Game Work?

This beginner's mentalism trick is also based on significant probability. The sudden switch in the participant's mind from analytical numbers to the imagination of a vegetable makes them most likely go for “carrots.”

This is because the vegetable carrot was a very common vegetable for many people when they were growing up. 

Things to be Cautious of When Performing the Mentalism “Carrot” Game

Someone from a different cultural diet might say a vegetable that is not a carrot. To avoid your subject saying a vegetable different from carrot, you can ask them to name an “orange vegetable.” This color limitation might make your mentalism performance less impressive, though.

You can also keep a few different papers, each with one common vegetable written or drawn on them. Just be careful not to mix the papers up when you disclose them. If you perform this on a group of people, you are more likely to have a high success rate.

Popular Mentalists to Check Out

Now that you understand what mentalism is and what mentalists do, perhaps you are interested in seeing some top-level mentalists blow your mind away. Check out the following renowned mentalists for some interesting entertainment.

Oz PearlmanOz Pearlman is the winner of America's Got Talent. He had worked for many years as a magician, but later on, he had rebranded himself as a mentalist.
Katherine MillsKatherine Mills is an English magician and mentalist.You can catch her performances on the TV show “Katherine Mills: Mind Games.”
Derren BrownDarren Brown is a very popular modern-day mentalist. His performances can be seen on the “Tricks of the Mind” TV series and other tv shows. 

Final Thoughts

There you have it. Now you should know clearly what mentalism is all about. Mentalism just goes to show us that the real world is pretty magical in itself and that magic lies within logic and knowledge.