Expertise among professional magicians: an interview study

Rissanen, Olli; Pitkänen, Petteri; Juvonen, Antti; Kuhn, Gustav and Hakkarainen, Kai. 2014. Expertise among professional magicians: an interview study. Frontiers in Psychology, 5(1484), pp. 1-4. ISSN 1664-1078 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The purpose of the present investigation was to analyse interviews of highly regarded Finnish magicians. Social network analysis (N = 120) was used to identify Finland's most highly regarded magicians (N = 16). The selected participants' careers in professional magic and various aspects of their professional conduct were examined by relying on semi-structured interviews. The results revealed that cultivation of professional level competence in magic usually requires an extensive period of time compared with other domains of expertise. Magic is a unique performing art and it differs from other professions focusing on deceiving the audience. A distinctive feature of magical expertise is that the process takes place entirely through informal training supported by communities of magical practitioners. Three interrelated aspects of magical activity were distinguished: magic tricks, performance, and audience. Although magic tricks constitute a central aspect of magic activity, the participants did not talk about their tricks extensively; this is in accordance with the secretive nature of magic culture. The interviews revealed that a core aspect of the magicians' activity is performance in front of an audience that repeatedly validates competence cultivated through years of practice. The interviewees reported investing a great deal of effort in planning, orchestrating, and reflecting on their performances. Close interaction with the audience plays an important role in most interviewees' activity. Many participants put a great deal of effort in developing novel magic tricks. It is common to borrow magic effects from fellow magicians and develop novel methods of implementation. Because magic tricks or programs are not copyrighted, many interviewees considered “stealing” an unacceptable and unethical aspect of magical activity. The interviewees highlighted the importance of personality and charisma in the successful pursuit of magic activity.

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expertise, expertise in magic, performing, professional satisfaction, reflection, creativity, professional magician

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Date Deposited:

29 May 2015 16:31

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 16:10

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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