eli5 forced choices in magic tricks?


How do you force a choice/number/card when it seems like there is a completely free choice?

In: 5

There are tons of ways to subtly influence choice and there are lots of psychological tricks you can use to prep someone for a forced choice.

Then there’s just human behavior, something like 60% of people if asked to pick a number between 1 and 10 are going to pick 7 mostly this boils down to the same reasons – even numbers don’t feel random, 5 is right in the middle, 3 and 9 are too close to the edges, nobody is picking 1 leaving just 7.

Then there’s other tricks, like them pointing to the card but you pull it out and make the swap.

One way I heard was to flash the deck either during a shuffle, or a spread, exposing a certain card that stands out and would make most people choose that card.

A lot of times when you are forcing a card, part of the illusion is that freedom of choice. An easy way to force a card is to riffle through the deck with your front hand (i.e the hand facing your audience) while the pinky of your back hand maintains a break in the deck. When you say stop, I immediately separate the deck at that same break I’ve been maintaining.

The other part of the trick is that I will have cut the deck before hand, putting the top card (which I know, for example, is the three of clubs). I maintain the break at the back of the deck, I cut at the break when you tell me to stop, tell you to draw the next card, and voila! You have “freely” chosen the three of clubs.

There are variations, but forcing a card essentially means that I’m forcing you to pick through sleight or hand or other mental manipulations to pick a card that I either already know or have figured out over the course of the trick through simple math tricks (if a magician asks you to sort a deck in a simple pattern three times, they likely know what your card is).

Here’s another example.

I lay out three objects in front of you, and want you to select the middle one. I ask you to point to one. Notice that I don’t ask you to *choose* one.

You point to the middle one? Great, I got my wish.

You point to a different one? Great, I tell you “Ok so we’ll eliminate that one” and discard it. Repeat.

Sounds ridiculous and no way you’d fall for that? Well, with the right patter and distraction you absolutely would.