Teaching students magic improves their wellbeing
Learning to perform magic tricks can help students feel more confident and connected with each other, research from Goldsmiths, University of London has shown.
The finding is from an initiative where first-year psychology undergraduates at Goldsmiths are taught a variety of magic tricks to perform for their peers. Afterwards, the student ‘magicians’ reported the experience increased their confidence and made them less worried about speaking out.
The study from the Goldsmiths MAGIC (Mind Attention & General Illusory Cognition) Lab builds on previous scientific research which has shown that watching and performing magic tricks can enhance people’s wellbeing.
Dr Gustav Kuhn, Reader in Psychology at Goldsmiths and head of the MAGIC Lab, said: “We know that starting at university trying to make new friends can be difficult so we provide a range of support for our students. We wondered if lessons in performing magic could be part of that, helping them to engage with each other and develop key soft skills and resilience that helps them make the most of the degree.”
Steve Bagienski, a PhD researcher at the Goldsmiths MAGIC Lab who led the work said: “Students who took part in the magic sessions reported they felt better about themselves and more connected to both the department and the university than those in our control group.”
Participants reported the sessions acted as an “ice-breaker” and encouraged them to “try out new experiences and step outside of my comfort zone”. One student added that the “experience has made me more confident… which was also really essential for me as I wanted to build that confidence and put myself out there a little more” while another said “it was a great environment to easily interact and make friends”.
In his new book, ‘Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic’, Dr Kuhn explores science and magic and explains what the latest research from the MAGIC Lab and elsewhere tells us about the human mind, magic and wellbeing, illusions, misdirection, hypnosis, and mind control.
Dr Gustav Kuhn said: “As both a scientist and a magician it’s an exciting time to be researching magic. We are starting to understand how magic techniques can influence us to, for instance, help reduce pain and anxiety in children undergoing medical procedures or make us susceptible to believing in fake news and conspiracy theories. As well as being fun, magic can give us a fresh insight into the strengths and weaknesses of our own minds.”