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12 Confidence Tricks and a Parking Spot

Magic tricks

 

Magic is believing in yourself. If you can do that you can make anything happen.

Goethe

 

Do you believe in magic?

 

You should. You’re a magician.

 

Maybe you can’t do card tricks or saw people in two (if you can, ask me about a couple of ‘volunteers from the audience’ to practice on).

 

You can, however, conjure forces and levitate spirits by whispering prayers, wishing on stars, affirming and meditating. You do simple magic with every “help me” and “thank you.”

 

You also can make objects disappear. Like socks and keys. Or entire cars. That’s my magic. I cast parking spells by forming an “O” with my index fingers and thumbs and chanting “parking karma” three times. A spot appears like Track 9 ¾.

 

But how does our magic work? Cars come and go; my arrival should not cause the sudden availability of room for a Chevy. Still, it seems time and parking space bend for me ONLY if I perform the spell in time– before circling with the rest of the motoring mortals.

 

Crazy, right? No. Just right. So say University of Cologne psychologists. In 2010, they unraveled one mystery of human mystical abilities: confidence.

 

In the researchers first experiment, volunteers were asked to bring lucky charms to a test. Moderators took the charms from one group but not another before the test. Use your ESP. Who scored higher?

 

In a second experiment, participants performed a timed activity. The “starting gun” for one group was the word “go” while a second group began upon hearing, “I press the thumbs for you.” Guess who did better?

 

Trick question. The flat-thumbed group was faster. Pressing thumbs is the German equivalent of crossing fingers.

 

In all, four different trials produced consistent results: people not only did better in the presence of a rabbit’s foot or after the mention of twisted digits, they also predicted they would.

 

The Cologne researchers concluded that activating superstitions, directly or indirectly, increased the participants’ confidence, and the additional confidence improved performances.

 

In other words, confidence is magic.

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