Tricks of the Mind (Derren Brown)
I'm fascinated by magic, and love learning about the tricks of the trade. Magic is applied psychology in action.
Derren Brown is a well known British mentalist and illusionist. He had a popular television show and hosted a number of television specials.
Examples: In one episode, Brown travels to the USA and convinces five leading figures that he has powers in their particular field of expertise: Christian evangelism, alien abduction, psychic powers, New Age theories and contacting the dead.
In another episode, under the guise of a motivational seminar, Brown uses conditioning over a period of two weeks to influence four members of the public to willingly choose to commit what they perceive to be an actual armed robbery of a security van.
In Tricks of the Mind, Brown reveals some of the techniques he uses in his performances, and delves into the structure and psychology of magic and discusses hypnosis.
He also applies his insight to the paranormal industry, looking at the structure of beliefs and how psychology can explain why people become "true believers".
Brown also offers autobiographical stories about his own experiences as a former Christian, and discusses his skepticism about religion, allegedly psychic phenomena and other supernatural belief systems.
It's no surprise that many working magicians are skeptics about supernatural claims, since they're so familiar with the natural psychological mechanisms that can lead people to adopt these beliefs.
But you don't have to be an atheist or a skeptic to learn from the insights of magicians. They are masters of the psychology of persuasion, and we should pay attention to what they have to say about human nature.