Influencing choices with conversational primes: How a magic trick unconsciously influences card choices

Pailhes, Alice and Kuhn, Gustav. 2020. Influencing choices with conversational primes: How a magic trick unconsciously influences card choices. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(30), pp. 17675-17679. ISSN 0027-8424 [Article]

PNAS-Revised-FINAL.pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (639kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

Past research demonstrates that unconscious primes can affect people’s decisions. However, these free choice priming paradigms present participants with very few alternatives. Magicians’ forcing techniques provide a powerful tool to investigate how natural implicit primes can unconsciously influence decisions with multiple alternatives. We used video and live performances of the Mental Priming Force. This technique uses subtle non-verbal and verbal conversational primes to influence spectators to choose the three of Diamonds. Our results show that a large number of participants chose the target card while reporting feeling free and in control of their choice. Even when they were influenced by the primes, participants typically failed to give the reason for their choice. These results show that naturally embedding primes within a person’s speech and gestures effectively influenced people’s decision making. This raises the possibility that this form of mind control could be used to effectively manipulate other mental processes.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):


priming, magic trick, influence, decision-making

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



1 June 2020Accepted
13 July 2020Published Online
28 July 2020Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

02 Jun 2020 13:40

Last Modified:

14 Jun 2021 18:23

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)