Psychologists at Goldsmiths, University of London are studying whether witnessing or performing magic tricks can enhance people’s wellbeing.
They will present a review of the current research into magic and wellbeing at The Science and Magic Conference held from 31 August to 1 September 2017 at Goldsmiths. The conference is the biggest event of its kind and features over 40 presentations and discussions by scientists and magicians on a range of other topics, such as how science can be used to improve magic tricks.
The study into magic and wellbeing examines the current evidence for whether witnessing, learning the secrets of, or performing magic tricks can enhance people’s mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. The research studied looks at how magic has been integrated into psychological therapies in street interventions, in hospitals, and in the classroom.
The researchers found a range of reported positive effects that could be separated into interrelated physical, cognitive, social, and emotional components. They also suggested possible explanations for why witnessing, learning, or performing magic might boost wellbeing as well as areas for further research.
Dr Gustav Kuhn, Reader in Psychology at Goldsmiths and co-author of the study, said: “Research into magic and wellbeing is still in its early stages but we found enough evidence that suggests magic tricks can have positive effects in a range of different situations, including schools and hospitals, that we want to explore this link further. One idea for why magic can have these benefits is that it involves the positive emotion of curiosity and this stimulating of our curiosity may play a role in enhancing emotional and cognitive wellbeing.
“There are many on-going programmes that use magic to enhance wellbeing, and we believe that teaching children to perform magic can have positive effects on their wellbeing. Our new model of magic and wellbeing will help evaluate and foster this new approach.”
Steve Bagienski, lead author of the research, said: "It's very interesting because we're seeing curiosity from magic tricks used in a variety of applications such as a fun, motivating tool to encourage students or as a distraction therapy for physical and mental pain."
This year’s conference will also see the launch of The Science of Magic Association which aims to encourage new collaborations between scientists and magicians.