Children of Magic

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Beyond The Moment. Get Involved. Autumn's Story. Gracie's Story. Children Believe in Magic Moments. They were 8. The procedure conformed to the guidelines of the Jewish General Hospital Research Ethics Committee and we obtained parental consent. Participants aged 13 and under completed the child version of the questionnaire; the rest did the adult version Demacheva et al.

Previously we recruited a sample of participants They completed an analogous questionnaire online. The experimenter explained that we were studying how people think about magic tricks. On a computer, a s silent video clip showed a magician making a pen vanish. In the video, the magician begins by showing a pen then appears to break it. We chose this minimal magic trick because it can fool both children and adults without needing patter, interaction, or explicit social cues Demacheva et al.

Joosten et al. Participants could watch the video as many times as they wanted. Participants watched a silent video of a magician making a pen vanish. For the video, see Supplementary Material. There are several methods of performing this trick.

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Here, the secret involved the pen quickly moving inside the magician's jacket. A small cue in the video of an object hitting the magician's shirt hinted at this method. For a full description of the mechanism behind the trick, see Wilson , p. The experimenter then led the children through a questionnaire Appendix A in Supplementary Material ; we used the same one as Demacheva et al.

Most children tried to explain the secret of the trick. A magician who was unaware of our hypotheses later rated these explanations on a scale from 1 i. Children rated their confidence in the explanations on a similar 5-point scale 1: not at all, 2: a bit, 3: some, 4: a lot, 5: a whole lot. The questionnaire then probed for alternative explanations by asking about required materials and possible methods to perform the trick.

Some materials and methods were accurate e.

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Finally, children revised their initial explanations and re-rated their confidence. Consistent with our hypotheses, younger children gave more supernatural interpretations, more often took the magicians' actions at face value, and felt more confident in their explanations. Inconsistent with our hypotheses, confidence also increased with age among adults.

We considered the explanation correct if the magician rated it 3 or more out of 5. The trick was thus effective in that few people figured it out. We excluded these few from the rest of the analyses. Attempts to explain the trick were broad. Percent of participants believing that the pen broke or dissolved. The vertical line separates those who took the child vs.

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The 7—9-year-olds began to develop possible yet implausible explanations. Some suggested the magician hid the pen in his sleeves which were rolled up in the video or hid it in his skin. Others suggested the pen crumbled into smaller and smaller pieces until nothing remained.

One suggested that the torso in the video was actually a mannequin and the magician hid the pen in the empty torso. The year-olds and older children started to develop plausible explanations, such as a trick pen, camera tricks, or a hidden pocket. These progressive changes in the explanations presumably reflect both increased verbal ability and cognitive development.

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Consistent with previous studies e. Percent of participants believing that the magic trick required a magic potion or superpowers. This general pattern is consistent with the finding that younger children are particularly overconfident Lipko et al.

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Indeed, when presenting a deck of cards to young children, magicians e. I know that trick!. Confidence in one's inaccurate explanation of the magic trick. This seems inconsistent with findings that younger adults are generally more overconfident than older ones Pliske and Mutter, ; Zell and Alicke, In our sample, gender differences may have contributed to this effect. Some studies have found that men are more overconfident in their abilities than women Barber and Odean, ; Bengtsson et al. The increase in males among older adults could have likewise increased confidence at older ages. Still, this could only explain part of the effect.

Zell and Alicke found an interaction between age and overconfidence depending on which dimension was measured. For example, older adults were more confident about their sociability but less so about their athleticism. Perhaps, then, explaining magic tricks is a dimension showing more overconfidence with age. It remains unknown whether similar results apply to other magic tricks or cognitive tasks among adults. Confidence in one's inaccurate explanation of the magic trick by gender.

This study had three potential limitations. First, the questionnaires for children and adults differed slightly in wording compare Appendix A in Supplementary Material here with Demacheva et al. Although we consulted a developmental psychologist to help ensure analogous wording, different results between children and adults could be partly due to inconsistencies in wording. To account for this, we minimized comparisons between those who took the child vs.

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Second, the magic trick was recorded rather than performed live, which complicated the explanations of the trick. When young children claimed that the pen dissolved or vanished, they could have either intended that the pen actually vanished in reality or simply that it appeared to vanish in the video ; we could not differentiate these with certainty.

Third, our methodology was insensitive to different interpretations of other questionnaire items. One potential solution would be to perform the trick live each time followed by a more in-depth interview; in our case, this would have prevented such a large sample. Using magic tricks may have several advantages for studying cognitive development across the life span.

Traditional illusions in developmental psychology often require props such as boxes, screens, or backdrops e. These illusions can make the prop itself seem magical, such as when transforming objects inside a special box e. Using magic, as in the current study, the experimenter can make a person look magical rather than a prop. Shifting the locus of magic from props to people could help clarify differences in the development of magical beliefs regarding people vs.

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Every month we create a Kids Insights Report, digging into all the trends in our highly-engaged PopJam community. Instead, parents, schools and concerned groups made Momo go viral by creating panic and messaging images and warnings to each other. Seeing adults in a panic is scary for kids and Momo has been given urban legend status, which is terrifying — and just a little bit exciting — for some.