Push A Card-Any Card

In my younger days, I was interested in magic tricks and how to perform them. I was far too shy to be inspired to do this on the stage, but I was curious about how the magic worked.

I recently came across a TED talk about research on how guiding the audience in their choice while extolling the virtue of free will worked as performed by a magician.

Simplifying the example, a table was between the participant and the magician.  Four cards, face down, were placed on the table near the participant. The participant was asked to push one of the four cards towards the magician.

The odds were 25% likely for each card.


Right-handed people picked the card second from the right 60% of the time, and left-handed people picked the card second from the left around 60% of the time, as well.

This is well above the likelihood of chance. So, what is going on? I’m glad you asked. (Was that mental telepathy just now!) Creepy.

The mind can get lazy when making choices, so it looks for the easiest option. Based on the dominant hand and spacing of the cards, the second card in was the easiest to push.

Free will appears to be less free than we first thought.

But all is not lost. Free will, or is it a double manipulation, can manipulate the selection closer to the statistical odds.

If the magician first says,” Pick a card,” pauses, then says, “Now push it toward me.” The second card in drops to 35% of the time being selected. Quite a change.

So, why do I think this little reveal of how a magic trick works most of the time is important?

We can intervene in similar everyday examples to not approach life with a lazy brain.

Here is an example of how I fight against lazy brain daily. I’ll add that I’m often not successful.

Store shelves, at eye level, are where we make most of our selection, especially if we aren’t looking for a specific brand. Take instant coffee; I’ll hunt high and low for my favourite brand. But if I rarely buy this product and I’m buying it for the food bank, I’ll most likely reach out and buy a jar at eye level. This is so solidly researched that larger companies pay grocery stores to be at eye level.

Did I mention that this cost for special placement is passed on to me as the consumer. So, a few cents from every instant coffee jar at eye level is added to the price. 

Disclaimer: I can’t prove that a product’s price is actually raised, but there are published reports of buying special placements.

Please give this a bit of a think. Is there nontangible information you look at that you are aware of in your lazy brain? Do you resist this with more critical choices? Think about social media, billboards, and placement on menus.

I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.

Photo by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

If you enjoyed The Blog, please share it with others. Thanks.

And my thanks to St. Albert Seniors Association for making this Blog possible.

Volunteer Blogger


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *