What is it about?

Magicians often warn each other about an unusual behavior that can occur when rehearsing in front of a mirror. Sometimes magicians unconsciously blink their eyes when carrying out deceptive action, blinding themselves to any evidence that their sleight of hand needs work. If true, this would constitute a clear example of self-deception, where a person knows the truth and pushes that truth out of their awareness. We attempted to elicit this blinking behavior in the lab and identify factors that increase or decrease its prevalence. Our research produced evidence that performing magicians are more likely to blink when carrying out sleight of hand. However, this blinking behavior was more prevalent in a performance setting than in a rehearsal setting. We suggest that this behavior may not be in service of self-deception. Instead, the blinking may nudge the audience to blink, thereby making the magician's deceptions more effective.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Eye blinks are a neglected source of information about thought. Their timing indexes cognitive effort, but can also serve as a useful communicative cue, helping listeners gauge when there is a lull in information processing. This work is among the first to explore the behavior of performing magicians for insights in the psychology of deception and self-deception.


Some of the first psychological research on magic in the 1890s examined expertise effects in performing magicians. However, little research has followed up on this early work. This research picks up that thread, examining behaviors of magicians during live performance.

Anthony Barnhart
Carthage College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Tactical blinking in magicians: A tool for self- and other-deception., Psychology of Consciousness Theory Research and Practice, March 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/cns0000321.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page