Forcing agency: Exploring illusory sense of agency and free will over choice with magicians' forcing techniques
Magicians have developed a wide range of techniques that allow them to covertly influence their spectators' choices: 'forcing' particular outcomes while, at the same time, presenting the illusion of freedom. Across five articles, I demonstrate how magicians' forces, also called forcing techniques, can be adapted into novel behavioural research methods that can shed light on decision-making processes and illusory sense of agency. The first article proposes a psychologically-based taxonomy of
... ing techniques, which used the magic literature to identify psychological principles that underpin different types of forcing techniques. Following on from this taxonomy, this thesis is then divided in two sections: Outcome Forces and Decision Forces. The first section of the thesis concerns Outcome Forces. Chapter 3 presents an investigation of the Criss-Cross Force, in which the magicians exploit spectators' illusory sense of agency over an outcome card that is completely controlled by the magician. In chapter 4, I present studies of the Magician's Choice Force. Here we exploited semantic ambiguities and people's failure to notice inconsistencies to ensure that participants ended up with a pre-determined outcome without being aware of this. The second section of the thesis concerns Decision Forces. Chapter 5 presents the Position Force, a force that relies on the strategic physical positioning of the items. We manipulated whether participants were reminded that they were making a decision or not when asked to select one of four cards. Finally, Chapter 6 investigated the Mental Priming force. We used video and live performance of this force, which relies on subtle non-verbal and verbal conversational primes to influence spectators to choose the three of Diamonds. These studies demonstrate that forcing techniques allow scientists to shed a light on decision-making processes and illusory agency and freedom over choices and their outcomes.