A very common card trick involves the magician asking you to pick a card as he ripples through a deck of playing cards in front of you. Following a few misdirects, such as pretending to pick out the wrong card and burning it, the magician will reveal the card that you chose secretly in your head. How did they do this?
The solution to the trick is to simply trim the top of a card and placing it in front of a card that the magician chose ahead of time. Because of the small gap, the chosen card ends up being revealed longer than other cards to the person as the deck is being rippled. That slight increase in visibility makes it much more memorable, subtly nudging the person towards choosing it.
As simple as the trick may be, it highlights how often we are under the illusion of choice. As much as we hate to admit it, we are quite susceptible to suggestion and persuasion. This is the basis of subliminal messaging, hypnosis and many types of mentalism (magic tricks involving manipulation of the mind). When we make a choice, how do we know that it comes purely from our own free will and volition?
Take for example the phenomenon of fake news. One of the dangers of fake news is that by using provocative, misleading headlines and summaries, it grabs our attention and leaves an impression. This means that unless we are vigilant about fact-checking and reading news from reputable sources, we can easily be manipulated into thinking or acting in a way that benefits those who released the fake news. The results of this may range from benign, such as persuading you to choose a certain brand of product over another, to something as sinister as affecting how you vote in an election or creating discord amongst the population of a country.
The field of psychology constantly reminds us of how flawed our minds are, with its numerous cognitive biases and ways it can be manipulated. We must be constantly aware of this fact to prevent ourselves from falling victim to those who try to take advantage of our thoughts and actions.
Sleep seems to be the most contradicting thing in my life. So often I wish I didn’t have to sleep so I could do more in my day, yet I fucking LOVE sleep. I’d sleep centuries if I could. There’s something nice about the thought that every day, you just switch off for a little while (except for dreams which are awesome in their own right). Plus, I find the subject of sleep absolutely fascinating, as you probably gathered from my pile of ARK posts…
Doing absolutely nothing.
I kinda mentioned this in a previous post, but that was more in the context of taking a break. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE doing stuff. Especially right now where all I can think of is all the stuff I’m waiting to do as soon as exams are over. But there’s a real simple joy in doing absolutely nothing. Just…sitting there, you know?
Of course I don’t mean literally nothing where you switch off your brain. That’s what you do when you watch TV (which I heartily endorse). But I mean putting down the book you’re reading or pausing that video, sitting back and getting lost in your thoughts. Maybe you’ll ponder the deep philosophies of what it means to be alive, or create an imaginary world you can adventure in.
If you don’t feel like exploring the inner workings of your mind, then get lost in your surroundings. Have you ever really taken into account what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch? Bernard Werber talked about a relaxation technique called “Opening your senses” in his books, which involves you systematically saying out loud everything you experience in the moment with each sense. For example, close your eyes and say everything you hear, to the smallest detail. Then do the same with all your other senses, you’ll notice that you’ve been missing out a lot of things in this world.
Sherlock Holmes stated that there is a great difference between seeing and observing. Try this out sometime. Have a cup of coffee at a cafe by yourself and look around you. You might see a boy and a girl making idle chit chat, but you might observe the two showing various subtle body language signs of mutual attraction. See if you can figure out a person’s job or personality or health condition just from observation. People-watching can be very fun, as long as you’re not being…you know, creepy.
So go on, drop what you’re doing, go lie in a patch of grass or sit at a cafe or wherever and just do nothing.
Do you suffer from insomnia? Tossing and turning in bed for hours every night while enduring the onslaught of fatigue and a sense of uneasiness is hard on both the body and the mind. There are many “remedies” such as drinking warm milk or exercising lightly but those rarely help. If you find yourself staring into the dark ceiling and unable to fall asleep again tonight, try the following trick.
First, calm your mind and breathe deeply. As you breathe in, count “one”. Remove all other thoughts and focus on the 1. Now, breathe out. As you breathe out, count “two”. Inhale, 1. Exhale, 2. Inhale, 1. Exhale, 2. If you think about nothing other than your breathing and counting, you will find yourself drifting off into dreamland in no time.
Here are ten facts about you:
1. You are reading this right now.
2. You are thinking that is a stupid fact.
4. You did not notice I skipped 3.
5. You are checking now.
6. You are smiling.
7. You are still reading this even though it is stupid.
9. You did not realise I skipped 8.
10. You are checking again and smiling about how you fell for it again.
11. You are enjoying this.
12. You did not realise we have passed number 10.