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Psychological Forces


I’m a big fan of using psychological forces when performing mentalism. Nothing gives me greater please than asking someone to “draw a simple shape, like a square or triangle”, and see their baffled expression when I divine that they have chosen a circle.
You may also be familiar with ‘the 37 force’ a number force that requires the subject to “think of a number between 50, and make both numbers odd.”

In the words of Art Attack’s Neil Buchannan, try it yourself.

These psychological forces work by playing on the human minds predictability, and limiting options in order to force a desired outcome. The flaw with most psychological forces though is that the subject will often know they are being steered in a certain direction. While they may not understand the extent to which their choices have been limited,  it is surely obvious to any laymen that there aren’t that many simple shapes, or odd numbers between 1 and 50.

Better then, to use more covert methods to achieve your ends. Subtle psychological forces are really fun to use and can lead to apparently unexplainable results.

To illustrate one such forces I created, take the following example of a flower force. Traditionally in psychological forces, if you ask someone to think of a flower, they will pick a rose. This is for no other reason than it’s the most common and obvious choice.
This is fine, but I suspect most people could work out that this is most peoples first choice, and therefore may be less than impressed.
The 3rd most common choice is a daisy. By forcing this instead, we are likely to leave the audience struggling to find an explanation.

Try this. Write down the word ‘Daisy’ secretly, and say the following to a willing subject of your choice. Be sure to emphasize the words in bold:

“In a moment I’m going to ask you to draw a simple flower. This could be one you see every day see less often, like a rose or a tulip, but be sure to to choose something thats fields familiar and you are able to draw.”

This works for the following reasons:

1 – You’ve mentioned the two most popular choices (rose and tulip), and therefore the subject will eliminate them from their thought process.

2 – You’ve said the words ‘Daisy’ and ‘Fields’ to them. While they won’t notice this, it will act as a command to their subconscious mind.

3 – By asking them to draw a flower, you’ve limited their choices by their drawing ability. A daisy is probably the easiest flower to draw, and therefore a comfortable choice for most people.

I realise that when written down, these scripts can often look ridiculous and transparent. However, the fact the subject is having to process information quickly to understand what they are being asked means that they will be unable to really scrutinise what you are saying to them.

Once you start using this text in a confident manner, you’ll see a great success rate from anyone who isn’t an expert artist and gardener. As a final note, remember that as ever, getting the participant into a willing and co-operative frame of mind is important before performing this. Don’t let them see it as a challenge, else you could end up with some strange results.


Now you’ve seen how it’s possible to plant (excuse the pun) suggestions into innocent sounding patter, why not creating your own scripts? How would you use psychological forces to force the following?

- News story: 9/11
- Type of transport – Train
- Playing card – King of Spades

Further Reading

Banachek was a really master of psychological forces, so it would be wrong not to mention his pioneering books on the subject here. They are staples of mentalism, so if you haven’t read them yet, go get yourself a copy of Psychological Subtleties 1, 2 and 3.

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