Have you ever been watching TV when your phone rings, and before you even look at it, you know who's calling? Ever been with a friend and knew what they were going to say before they said it? At one time or another, almost everyone has had an experience like this, and some people more frequently than others.
In my early years of performing, after people had seen one of my mentalist shows, I was often asked, "Are you psychic?" I suppose it was a reasonable question, since most have heard of people like John Edward and others claiming unique gifts and abilities. I took it as a compliment that my performance was effective, but always felt a little disturbed by it. I'd always be quick to answer that I am not psychic, nor had I ever witnessed anyone who was. I'm not saying such things don't exist, but while I've witnessed many, many people claiming to be psychic, I've never actually met anyone who could demonstrate it without using the well-concealed psychological and nonverbal techniques I use as a mentalist.
When the phone rang and you knew who was calling, there were many factors involved. For example, you may have been hoping or expecting a call from this person, or a trigger may have made each of you think of the other at the same time. Even though you knew who was calling this time, there have probably been far more times when calls came as complete surprises; we just remember and talk about the time we got it right.
Many famous self-proclaimed psychics take advantage of this principle. They make enormous numbers of predictions, only creating great publicity around the few they happened to get right, completely ignoring the vast majority that weren't even close.
But what about knowing what your friend is about to say? Perhaps it's a psychic ability. But it seems a simpler explanation that you just know the person well. The better you know a person and their characteristics, the more likely you understand how they think and can pick up on patterns that could indicate what they will say next. Often, identical twins can finish each other's sentences, but this comes from knowing the other person and their thinking patterns so well. With practice, you can even do this with strangers. The more observant you are of their speech and movements, the quicker you pick up on patterns and can formulate what's coming next.
A well-known mentalist from the past once said, "I use the five known senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense." It's an art that can be practiced and honed. It's interesting, and provides incredible opportunities for jaw-dropping entertainment and fun. The next time you're in a conversation with a friend, make a special effort to observe speech patterns, intonation, facial expressions, postures, and body language. Then, as the conversation continues, see if you can silently anticipate the next sentence. You might amaze yourself.
In all of my shows, I now make it clear from the start that I am not psychic and have no supernatural powers. What I do is a combination of psychology, observation, influence, and illusion. It's a combination of many things, but it is definitely not ESP!
By Don Townsend
Don Townsend is an Orlando entertainer that provides jaw dropping laugh out loud corporate entertainment with his astounding mentalist act.
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