Friday, May 23, 2008

How Derren Brown Made David Tennant Predict the Future

How did David Tennant predict the future in the most recent episode of Trick or Treat 2?

Anthony and ellenore have shared their theories in the comments section of a prior post regarding how David Tennant predicted the future.

Additionally, the following comments were left in response to our survey:

1. I agree with your suggestion...the article involves a court case and DB could have gotten inside knowledge from an old Law School buddy. The other option is an envelope switch where a forger has used words from both the original document and the news article. A third (and more complex) option is that DB convinced DT that the automatic writing was made on the Monday (and that 3 days had passed) where it was in fact filmed earlier that day (and only 3 hours had passed).

2. Perhaps Derren knew an article would appear on a particular subject, so selected those details. Anything else could be put down to confirmation bias, I'd imagine. Perhaps he hypnotised David beforehand and told him to forget hearing the particular words, but to write them when told to? ;)

3. He switched the envelope. - James Joystick

4. David Tennant wasn't actually in the pool on Monday, but rather on Wednesday evening, when the first edition of the Guardian had already been printed.

5. I'm not quite sure to be honest. I think he could 'cheat' to some degree. Derren as mentioned before might have known what was going to be in the paper, and almost certinly knew when they were then going through the writing and comparing it to the paper. This means he could have said words looked like something even if they were undeciferable and could use suggestion to make David think that's what the word looked like. I find Derren amazing at these 'predicting the future' tricks. As mentioned he doesn't believe in predicting the future yet I went to one of his live shows last night and he'd predicted what was going to happen throughout the night and hung it infront of us all night. I guess it would have been done with a slight of hand but it is still amazing watching these things happen in person.

6. David acted!

7. I would liek to coorrect you if i may, It was 4 days afetr teh writing that they bought a copy of teh paper and not 2 days as you stated in your blog. Kind Regards

8. Used an associate


I think the general consensus is that Derren switched the envelopes. That seems to be the simplest explanation. It is also likely that the timeline in the episode was distorted by editing.

Enjoy tonight's episode. Channel 4 gives the following description:

In Episode 4, agency worker Angela is ambushed by Derren in total blackout in an office.
Over the following weeks, she is given a number of tasks to fulfil, both physical and mental.
She needs to complete them to ensure she is ready to face probably the most challenging experience of her life.
For she is to be kidnapped and subjected to a terrifying ordeal and will have to use psychological techniques, given to her by Derren, to escape her predicament.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Glen Brighton Talks About Derren Brown's Speed-Learning System

If you want to know how Derren Brown's speed-learning system works, who better to ask than Glen Brighton, the man who learned the system from DB himself?

We at AboutDerrenBrown had a good time speculating about how the super-learning system in episode 1 of Trick or Treat 2 worked. As you will recall, DB taught Glen Brighton a system for learning trivia. A week later, the one-man team of "Just Glen" finished second place in a pub quiz, against numerous five-man teams.

Since episode 1 aired, thousands and thousands of people have visited this blog searching for "derren brown super learning system" or some variation on that theme.

Imagine how pleased I was when Glen Brighton, the star of episode 1, contacted me. Glen was very gracious and shared the following observations about his experience:

I read your BLOG. I am not sure what has been more interesting, being in the show...or the conspiracy theories afterwards! I loved the one about me already knowing a lot of trivia!

What I will tell you is that what you saw really happened, there were no tricks that I know about and it really was me answering those questions. I spent a lot of time with Derren talking about memory and how it can be trained. I am sure you have read his books and he has some unique theories.

I am glad you enjoyed the show, it was great fun and the people at Objective were a joy to be with. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

I asked about Glen's interaction with Derren, and he commented:

Derren was fascinating and interesting, I spent quite a bit of time with him and I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him about lots of issues and some of the things he has done.

Glen, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Of course, we'll have to revise our conspiracy theories now.

Be sure to check back later this week when we will post the results of our latest survey regarding the David Tennant episode.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

David Tennant's Time Travel Trick - How did he do it?

Episode 3 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2 featured time traveller David Tennant.

Early in the show, he was given a sealed envelope and hypnotized to travel backward through time and experience a historical event. He then related details of the event, which were virtually identical to details provided in the sealed envelope.

Near the end of the show, Tennant tried to do some "automatic writing" to predict the future, while Derren distracted him with various questions. Two days later, the automatic writing sample was reviewed and found to contain words that seemed to predict an article in that day's newspaper.

How did he do it?

Of the two tricks, the second seems more baffling. Derren Brown does not believe in automatic writing. Nor does he believe that it is possible to predict the future. Either (1) he knew about the article in advance or (2) he was able to make the writing sample appear to match the article when in fact it did not.

Because the writing sample included a complex and unusual name that was also in the article, I think option 1 is more probable. I have not yet had time to look up the actual newspaper article on-line. From what I saw in the show, though, it was a large, feature-type article. It appeared to be at least one full page with graphics/illustrations. It was not, therefore, breaking news.

It is entirely possible that Derren knew about the article two days before it ran, and was therefore able to select relevant words from the article to embed in David's automatic writing. How did he embed the words? I'm not sure.

What do you think?

Once again, I am posting a survey to get your feedback on how Derren did his trick. See survey to the right of this entry -->>

This week, instead of giving you a finite list of options, I am simply asking for a text response. If you have an idea how DB did it, leave a comment. I will post a representative sample of the responses later this week.

In other news

Remember Glen Brighton from episode 1 of Trick or Treat 2? With a little help from DB, Glen won a pub quiz in what has been the most interesting episode so far this season.

I have had the good fortune of corresponding with Glen since the episode ran. With his permission, I will post his comments about the experience later this week. Be sure to check back (or subscribe to the aboutderrenbrown RSS feed) -- you won't want to miss this.

Friday, May 16, 2008

David Tennant on Trick or Treat 2 -- Plus survey results

We are only a few hours away from the David Tennant episode of Trick or Treat 2.
Dr. Who will, reportedly, experience the feeling of time travel, going back to the 1930's and attempting to predict future events.
You can watch a teaser of the episode on Channel 4's website.
Before we get to episode 3, though, let's review the survey results from episode 2 -
As you will recall, DB appeared to use negative suggestion to make Lauren press a button that would electrocute a kitten.
Our survey this week asked why she pushed the button. Here are the results:
1. Derren gave her negative suggestions, as shown on the broadcast - 10 votes, 41.67%
2. Derren filmed dozens of people in this situation, and it was inevitable that someone would push it - 7 votes, 29.17%
3. Derren hypnotized her - 4 votes, 16.67%
4. Lauren was an actor - 1 vote, 4.17%
5. Other - 2 votes, 8.33%
Our "other" voters both left good comments:
A. People will do anything to get on telly....Lauren knows that if she does not comply the show would not go on. Even though she is not an actor, she is acting, just as we see people do in lame stage hypnotist shows.
B. I think it was a mix of Negative Suggestion and Hypnotism. Derren's strength comes from throwing out apparent explanations, when in fact a more simple/complex method is employed. We only have some truth and some red herrings to go on.
The episode reminded me very much of a stage hypnotist's show and, in fact, Derren was a stage hypnotist before he got into magic.
The high-wire-walker segment of the episode featured the same basic trick as the cat-killing segment -- DB used negative suggestions to make the tightrope walker fall. Did you notice the handshake induction used on the tightrope walker right before DB gave him negative suggestions?
I think Lauren was covertly hypnotized, as well, using a variety of methods. But that is just my opinion.
About half as many people participated in this week's poll as in the prior week's. In the media, too, the reaction to episode 2 was less favorable than to episode 1.
Let's hope that star power (David Tennant) will create some extra enthusiasm for tonight's episode. Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Did Lauren Kill the Cat? -- Negative Suggestions with Derren Brown

Last Friday's episode of Trick or Treat 2 upset animal lovers, but pleased Derren Brown fans.

Derren offered his victim, Lauren, 500 pounds if she could resist the temptation to push a button that would electrocute a cat. DB gave Lauren numerous negative suggestions ("don't kill the cat... whatever you, do not KILL THE CAT").

The cuddly little pet didn't have a chance. And we were all left wondering -- why did Lauren kill the cat?

Ace99 posted a controversial theory as a comment on my prior blog entry, and claimed that it is based on inside information. Add your own opinion by voting in the survey to the right of this entry. -->

The results will be posted in the next 48 hours or so.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Trick or Treat 2 - Episode 2 -- It's Hard Not to Kill the Kitten

In tonight's episode of Trick or Treat 2:

Social anthropology student Lauren experiences an extreme example of negative suggestion by having to resist killing a kitten in Episode 2.

Sounds like she picked the "trick" card. Enjoy the show!

Next week we will run another survey on this blog to see how you think Derren Brown pulled off his latest trick.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speed Learning Survey: The Results Are In

Thank you to the 52 people who took the time to respond to the survey I posted two nights ago. In the wake of last week's Trick or Treat 2 episode, the survey asked: How did Derren Brown make Glen Brighton place second at a pub quiz?

The votes broke down like this:

1. Derren has supernatural powers. 1 vote, 1.92%

2. DB taught Glen a super-learning system, as shown in the broadcast. 6 votes, 11.54%

3. DB taught Glen a super-learning system, but the real system was not shown on TV. 37 votes, 71.15%

4. The quiz show was rigged. 4 votes, 7.69%

5. Other. 4 votes, 7.69%

Three of the "Other" votes shared their theories:
a. money, earpiece and a contract of silence
b. None of it happened
c. DB knew answers and "planted" them into Glenn's mind

Also of note, two readers left comments on the prior blog entry, positing their own theories:

The first comment suggested that the pub quiz trick might be like the piano-player trick from season 1 of Trick or Treat. As you'll recall, DB led viewers to believe that he was using hypnosis to teach a woman to play the piano. In fact, she was already a concert pianist and he was merely restoring the state of mind (confidence, concentration, etc.) that she needed to play well.

Comment 1 is suggesting that Glenn already knew a lot of trivia, and Derren was restoring his confidence or helping him develop the right state of mind to perform well at the quiz.

The second comment was a little more cryptic:

"Carfax". Explore that and you find your answers. Well played, Derren.

I can only assume that this was left by one of the magicians who read this blog, and who actually can figure out how the tricks are done.

"Carfax" was the answer to one of the two trivia questions Derren asked Glenn.

I looked up the definition of "carfax." In the UK, it is the "intersection of four roads." or, stated differently, "the intersection of two roads that change their names." Is the fact that the roads change their names a hint that the "speed learning" system is not what Derren says it is? I don't know.

The pub quiz trick reminds me most strongly of Derren's photoreading trick. He went to a university library, scanned a book very quickly, and then appeared to be able to recite a passage chosen randomly by a librarian. Later, in an interview, Derren acknowledged that he was not actually photoreading -- that he was instead using a magic trick.

But if the speed-learning system was not real, how could Derren be certain that Glen would perform well at the quiz? No idea.

In summary, the first episode of Trick or Treat 2 was excellent, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time scanning textbooks.

Correction to the Previous Blog Entry

David Tennant's website is now saying that the episode of Trick or Treat 2 in which he appears will air May 16th, 2008.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Derren Brown's Speed Learning -- How Did He Do It?

Last Friday, Derren Brown opened the second season of Trick or Treat with an excellent episode in which DB (apparently) used a photoreading-like technique to help a "treat" recipient learn trivia and place second in a pub quiz.

[UPDATE: read what participant Glen Brighton said about the trick]

As always, it was quite entertaining. Since the episode aired, this blog has been visited by hundreds of people searching for some variation of the phrase "Derren Brown speed learning system." It's become obvious that we are all wondering how he did it.

A Few Theories

1. In its recap of the episode, the Mirror made the not-too-original suggestion that Derren Brown must be in league with the devil, as did the Guardian.

2. But the Mirror also made the amusing suggestion that DB set up numerous pub quizzes, filmed them all, and only showed the one in which his pupil placed well in the quiz (a la DB's method in the System).

3. Many bloggers seem to have accepted that the super-learning technique works as shown.

4. Others accept that DB really did teach his pupil a super-learning technique, but maintain that the system is different from (or more complicated than) what was shown in the episode.

5. Finally, the extreme skeptics are saying that the quiz was rigged.

Cast your vote (or propose a new theory) in the survey to the right of this entry -->>

I will post the results later this week.

Future Episodes

If you are wondering what the remaining Trick or Treat 2 episodes hold in store, see, which reports that one episode will examine the skills mediums use to escape from ropes very quickly in the dark.

Another episode will feature David Tennant and will air on May 23, 2008, according to the actor's official website.