Thursday, November 29, 2007

Actor Daniel Craig Says Derren Brown Converts People to Catholicism

In an interview this week about the upcoming movie "The Golden Compass," actor Daniel Craig made a cryptic reference to Derren Brown:

I don’t actually consider the [His Dark Materials trilogy] books to be anti-religious. Mainly they’re anti-misuse of power whether it be religion or politics that uses it. The opposition is always going to be there.... It’s good that it has that controversy but it’s a debate. And that’s what maybe there needs to be more of. I actually think these books, and these movies if they all succeed and come out, will actually do the church the world of good. I think that Derren Brown’s book proves this point. I think there have been more Catholic take ups because this book than from anywhere else.

I think Craig is suggesting that Derren Brown's book, which explains why DB is an atheist, has inspired people to join the Catholic church (or increased the devotion of existing members). That seems obviously not to have been DB's intent. Among other things, his book praises Richard Dawkins' pro-atheism work.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Skeptics Are Wrong About Derren Brown

Here is an interesting discussion of Derren Brown's subliminal suggestion techniques by a group of skeptics.

Members of the discussion suggest that DB's psychological explanations of his trips are completely bogus, just a part of the act. They go so far as to suggest that his book, "Tricks of the Mind," is also part of the act -- designed to dupe the public into believing his acts involve psychological phenomenon.

A few posts ago I considered the idea that the psychological aspect of DB's act was simply misdirection. In some of his tricks it might be.

But given my recent experimentation with subliminal suggestion, I know for a fact that it can work. Whether or not DB relies on it in his act is impossible for me to say. (By the way, I am going to try subliminal suggestion on another friend tomorrow night; so I should have more to report on that front soon.)

The skeptics might be partly correct, but based on my experience I have to believe that at least some of the time Derren Brown's mental illusions work just the way he says they do.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How I Mastered Derren Brown's Subliminal Suggestion Technique

The most popular Derren Brown techniques include achieving "mind-reading" effects by subliminally suggesting an idea to a subject, and then getting the subject to regurgitate the idea back.

For example, DB might suggest to someone the shape "circle." Then he asks the person to choose a shape. The person chooses a circle, just as DB expected. DB produces the paper on which he wrote his prediction - circle - and looks as if he has read the subject's mind.

DB uses a variety of techniques to subliminally suggest ideas. Sometimes he's very obvious, stating his instructions in plain English, but buried inside of a distracting monologue.

I decided to try this type of obvious technique for myself. Last night, I asked a friend to choose one of four shapes I had drawn on a piece of paper. Before he looked at the paper, I explained a little bit about Derren Brown, something like this:

"...and he does lots of tricks with people. For example, he guesses the cards people pick out of a deck of cards, he hypnotizes people, choose square, he makes people forget their names, and so forth..."

My instruction to "choose square" was embedded in my monologue. I thought it was obvious, but my friend did not consciously notice it. And when I asked him to pick a shape, he chose the square.

I repeated this experiment three more times, with different shapes and similarly obvious subliminal suggestions. It worked each time. The odds of this result happening by chance are 1 in 256 (i.e., 4 x 4 x 4 x 4), so I am quite confident that the technique worked for me.

O.K., I probably haven't mastered the technique yet, but I am thrilled that it has worked. And obviously I will experiment with it more.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Derren Brown 2008 Tour Dates

Derren Brown's tour dates are now posted on his official site. His upcoming tour will run from February 26 to April 29 of 2008.

As I anticipated, all the performances will be in the U.K. If you plan to attend, you need to contact individual venues to find out when tickets go on sale.

The show is called "Derren Brown, Mind Reader - An Evening of Wonders." He has already done one tour of this show. Many reviews are available on-line -- here is a personal blog account of the show.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Where Is Derren Brown More Popular -- U.S. or U.K.?

Today I was using Google Analytics to review statistics about visitors to this Derren Brown blog, and I began wondering: Where is Derren Brown more popular - the U.S. or the U.K.?

DB has been popular in the U.K. since his show began airing there in 2000, while he made his debut in the U.S. only a few months ago, in July 2007 (on the Sci Fi channel).

Since at least 2003 he has talked about becoming popular in the U.S. So has he done it yet?

Admittedly, my blog is not a perfect scientific test. The overwhelming majority of visitors, however, come from the U.S. or the U.K., with a smaller number from other European countries. And I think this blog provides a rough indication of how many people are interested enough in DB to go poking around on the internet for a while.

I was amused to find, therefore, that precisely the same number of visitors came from the U.S. as from the U.K. over the past six weeks.

For those of you unfamiliar with geography, the U.S. is much larger than the U.K. and has more residents. So, the density of Derren Brown interest in the U.K. is apparently still much greater than in the U.S. But I think a solid faction of DB fans has developed in the U.S., and will continue to grow.

DB seems content to focus on his U.K. audience (note, e.g., that his 2008 tour will apparently be confined to the U.K.). Sooner, or later, though NBC or some other American network will host "An Evening with Derren Brown," and we'll see a sudden spike in his U.S. popularity.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

What if Derren Brown's Psychology Is Just Part of the Trick?

In response to my October 20 entry about Derren Brown's alleged use of NLP Anchoring techniques, "Stanton Carlisle" commented that:

Derren doesn't like or use NLP. You may think he uses it, he may imply he uses it however, he doesn't.

SC's comment got me thinking. In his book, Tricks of the Mind, Brown criticizes the cult-like behavior of NLP devotees and expresses a good deal of hostility toward NLP itself. At the same time, though, he directs the reader to try a couple of NLP exercises which he recommends.

DB's attitude toward NLP is, at best, ambivalent. So it's hard to believe that NLP is the secret weapon in his act.

What if he intentionally implies that he uses NLP and other psychological techniques, but is in fact doing ordinary magic tricks? i.e., what if the psychological talk is just part of the act? I am not the first person to consider that possibility.

Ultimately, I think that conclusion is a little too conspiracy-theory. In one of my favorite segments (from the British Trick or Treat series), DB teaches an elderly woman to play poker by reading body language, and she comes in second place in a professional poker game (without DB being present). That seems clearly to be about psychology, not trickery.

In some cases, though, I think it is likely that Derren Brown is performing ordinary magic tricks in the guise of psychological illusions (e.g., in his card tricks).