An empirical assessment of the magician's "off-beat

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Magicians are informal cognitive scientists who regularly test their hypotheses in the real world. As such, they can provide scientists with novel hypotheses for formal psychological research as well as

Magicians are informal cognitive scientists who regularly test their hypotheses in the real world. As such, they can provide scientists with novel hypotheses for formal psychological research as well as a real-world context in which to study them. One domain where magic can directly inform science is the deployment of attention in time and across modalities. Both magicians and scientists have an incomplete understanding of how attention operates in time, rather than in space. However, magicians have highlighted a set of variables that can create moments of visual attentional suppression, which they call "off-beats," and these variables can speak to modern models of temporal attention. The current research examines two of these variables under conditions ranging from artificial laboratory tasks to the (almost) natural viewing of magic tricks. Across three experiments, I show that the detection of subtle dot probes in a noisy visual display and pieces of sleight of hand in magic tricks can be influenced by the seemingly irrelevant rhythmic qualities of auditory stimuli (cross-modal attentional entrainment) and processes of working memory updating (akin to the attentional blink).