Friday, February 18, 2011


I caught an episode of Dateline NBC with Keith Morrison tonight on the story of Colonel Russell Williams, a former generous patriot and seemingly good man who was in fact living a double life as a rapist and murderer. I was particularly impressed with the detective's 4-hour interrogation with Williams and his natural ability to coax the trained, intelligent officer into a confession. Great episode and it got me thinking about a British illusionist/entertainer, Derren Brown, again. How incredible is it that humans can control the other's behavior through simple misdirection and suggestion?

Derren Brown is a phenomenal showman. A hypnotist. A magician. But more than these things intrigued me about him. He uses his slight of hand and ability to manipulate others to teach his audience how (with practice and knowledge of psychology/sociology) we too can predict and/or control the reactions of others.

Check out this video of Derren showing us how easily manipulative and predictable we all really are.

So, although the detective may not think of himself as a magician, what he did certainly was magical. By allowing the suspect to believe he was "in control" of the conversation, he found himself confessing the details of his heinous crimes he had been covering up for years to one man who remained calm, friendly, and soft-spoken through the duration of their 4-hour conversation. I'm sure Derren Brown knows similar tricks; I'm just waiting for the episode...(or for him to finally launch an American tour so I can see it live!)

Song of the day:

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