Mentalists are performing artists who appear to wield psychic powers like mind reading, ESP, divination, and precognition. They have no such powers, but have so effectively sharpened their abilities to read body language and exercise subtle psychological influence that it looks like they can know a person's inner thoughts or predict what they'll do. So, while a gifted mentalist's show seems like it involves something paranormal, it's just illusion.
Is a Mentalist a Magician?
Mentalists are not magicians. Most don't consider themselves magicians at all, as their "illusions" are of a cognitive nature; magicians rely on sleight of hand and visual illusions to create their brand of theatrics. This is not to say some mentalists don't perform magic tricks, though most don't, and many magicians incorporate some aspects of mentalism into their shows. Also, there's a field often referred to as "mental magic" that blends elements of both arts.
Does a Mentalist Have ESP or Psychic Abilities?
Nope. A talented mentalist certainly appears to have extra-sensory perception or psychic powers, and even the ability to predict the future. But the mentalist isn't gazing upon the inner workings of a participant's mind with some mystical third eye or receiving communication from spirits with inside information or anything of the sort. Quite the opposite, the mentalist is closely observing the person's exterior-body language, facial expressions, micro-expressions, and other nonverbal communication to figure things out, and also using psychological prompts to steer the person's behavior.
Is There Any Such Thing as Psychic Abilities?
That's for you to decide. There's no scientific answer, at least not now; it's a matter of belief.
However, if you're inclined to seek advice from people billing themselves as psychics (and billing for their services), know going in that many are just using tricks of the mentalist trade. The skills many mentalists apply to entertaining people, many "psychics" apply to taking advantage of them. Be careful about how seriously you take such things.
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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