Cognitive style predicts how people explain mental magic tricks

Giorgio Gronchi, Jeffrey C. Zemla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Magic tricks are deceiving, yet we can readily generate an explanation for a trick that we do not fully understand. In three experiments, we show that the way people explain a mental magic trick depends on their individual cognitive style. Analytical thinkers tend to generate explanations that appeal to rationality, such as using physical props to accomplish an effect. In contrast, intuitive thinkers are more likely to generate irrational explanations that accord with the magician's provided backstory, such as using subliminal cues to guide a spectator's choices. We observe this effect when measuring a participant's cognitive style using the Cognitive Reflection Test, and also when manipulating a participant's cognitive style using a simple narrative prompt.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number103347
JournalActa Psychologica
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Cognitive style
  • Explanations
  • Magic
  • Reasoning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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