The Magician’s Choice: Providing illusory choice and sense of agency with the Equivoque forcing technique

Pailhes, Alice; Kumari, Shringi and Kuhn, Gustav. 2021. The Magician’s Choice: Providing illusory choice and sense of agency with the Equivoque forcing technique. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 150(7), pp. 1358-1372. ISSN 0096-3445 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Forcing techniques allow magicians to subtly influence spectators’ choices and the outcome of their actions, and they provide powerful tools to study decision-making and the illusory sense of agency and freedom over choices we make. We investigate the Equivoque force, a technique that exploits semantic ambiguities and people’s failure to notice inconsistencies, to ensure that a spectator ends up with a pre-determined outcome. Similarly to choice blindness paradigms, the Equivoque forces participants to end up with an item they did not choose in the first place. However, here, the subterfuge is accomplished in full view. In three experiments, we showed that the Equivoque is highly effective in providing participants an illusory sense of agency over the outcome of their actions, even after two repetitions of the trick (experiment 2), and using items for which pre-existing preferences can be present (experiment 3). Across all experiments, participants were oblivious to inconsistencies in the procedure used to guide their decisions, and they were genuinely surprised by the experimenter’s matching prediction. Contrary to our prediction, the Equivoque force did not significantly change participants’ preference for the chosen item. We discuss the results with regards to other illusions of agency (e.g. forcing, choice blindness), failures in noticing semantic inconsistencies (e.g Moses illusion), and issues surrounding choice-induced-preference literature.

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(c) 2020, American Psychological Association. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at:

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13 September 2020Accepted
30 November 2020Published Online
July 2021Published

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15 Sep 2020 09:00

Last Modified:

09 May 2022 15:20

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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