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The Mentalist and ESP

Updated on September 18, 2012

A mentalist is an individual trained in psychology and the art of observing queues like minute facial expressions and body language. The purpose is to give an impression they have ESP, (Extra Sensory Perception) can read minds and predict the future. So basically, a mentalist is a performer who uses trickery and deception to create the illusion of having paranormal or supernatural powers.

ESP, sometimes referred to as parapsychology, is usually broken down into four basic categories by most researchers. They are:

  • Telepathy: From the Greek tele, meaning "distant,” and patheia, meaning "feeling.” Said to be an innate ability of humans and other creatures to communicate information from one mind to another, without using the usual sensory channels of communication such as speech or body language.
  • Clairvoyance: The art of “seeing” beyond the five senses, often called the “sixth sense” or ESP.
  • Precognition: Direct knowledge or perception of the future obtained through extrasensory means.
  • Psychokinesis: From the Greek "psyche," meaning mind, soul, spirit, heart or breath and "kinesis", meaning motion, movement.

Many claim to have these paranormal abilities. But, the fact is no one has ever been successful in proving they’re real under scientific test conditions. In fact, many entertainers want their audience to know their performance is not ESP or any other form of psychic ability. There is absolutely nothing psychic or supernatural involved. So how do they do it?

A mentalist uses the five known senses to their fullest potential picking up on a body’s slightest telltale signs to give the illusion of a sixth sense. A mentalist, using observation and reasoning, can gain enough information from these signs to draw conclusions that appear to be mind reading. The term “Micro Expression” has sometimes been used in describing many involuntary facial expressions a mentalist can get information from. Unlike regular facial expressions, it’s hard to fake micro expressions.

Many find a mentalist’s ability to do these things very exciting and want to learn to do it themselves. A mentalist seems to do the impossible, mesmerizing their audience. They do it by relying on their subjects' selective thinking.

One noted mentalist astonished people by reciting intimate details about their homes and lives. Out of a number of test subjects he was found to be, on the average, correct in one out of fourteen statements. Selective thinking had led them to dismiss apparent misses and wrong guesses and remember only the correct ones. In spite of the experiment results they remain devoted fans.

Anyone interested can learn how it’s done. The first step is to understand what signals are being emitted to figure out what someone is thinking. To accomplish this most mentalists use four main skills:

  • Acuity:
  • Awareness:
  • Flexibility:
  • Focus:

These skills are indispensable in reading a target. Just as important is being aware of signals you are sending and weaving these skills into three areas. These are called:

  • Emotional awareness: Becoming more aware of your own mental and emotional states. This helps in recognizing them in others. It takes practice, but in a while they will become more obvious.
  • IQ: Improve problem solving and interpretive skills. These are necessary skills in learning what signs to zero in on.
  • Physical awareness: Stresses how to use basic senses to recognize common signals inherent in all people.

A good mentalist needs to perfect all these. Be prepared to do a lot of studying since the art requires constant learning by being perpetual students of human nature.

"Brilliant scientists and interested laymen who cannot detect how a magician produces a dove from an empty silk handkerchief or conjures an orange under an inverted teacup are not likely to discover the subtle secrets of a mentalist without prolonged study." ~Milbourne Christopher, ESP, Seers and Psychics~


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