Posts tagged ‘derren brown’

The Full Facts book of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland

The Full Facts book of Cold Reading

The Full Facts book of Cold Reading

This is the post I had planned to make before I messed up.  As someone with an interest in the various tricks that psychics, mediums, tarot readers and similar use, Ian Brodie’s suggestion that I read this book was welcome.  Ian Rowland is a very clear and concise writer and clearly has a love for his subject.

This book cannot make you into a cold reader any more than a Haynes manual can turn you into a mechanic.  What it does do is to take the reader through the steps that any cold reader takes, consciously or otherwise, in a way designed to make the client believe that the reader has more knowledge than they really do.  This is the essence of cold reading – as the reader you need to convince your client that you somehow know things that you shouldn’t be able to.  Whether you are posing as an intuitive person, a psychic, an astrologer or a tarot card reader or whatever, cold reading gives you a way to draw information out of your client without their knowledge.

Firstly, the one thing that jumped out at me was that Ian Rowland really does not want a discussion on whether psychics are real or not within the book.  He discusses the methodology and mentions that this is one way that a psychic could operate.  He also makes it clear that he does not know whether their are real psychics out there or not.  This is in line with skeptical thinking – just because he has never met one does not mean that one is not out there.  I was annoyed about this at first and felt that he should express an opinion.  However, I then realised that this book (despite the content) is not the forum for that debate and he has neatly sidestepped it.

The book is broken down into 6 sections: the first section is about the book itself, the section is a long section on the theory of cold reading and the elements of it, the third section is transcripts of real readings that Ian Rowland has carried out, the fourth (importantly) explains how to block a cold reader, the fifth is “additional notes” and the sixth section gives details on real life non-psychic uses for the techniques and uses a police interrogation as an example.   It is difficult to express the wealth of ideas that the author has put into a seemingly short book.  Cold reading is easy to learn but tricky to master – look at a John Edwards reading as an example of poor cold reading!

At no time does Ian Rowland talk down to you, he is an able teacher with an obviously high regard for his subject.  According to the transcripts provided he has an extremely high success rate (higher than that of professional psychics!) but at no time does he use his knowledge to make money dishonestly.  Some of Derren Brown’s early work was taken from the techniques laid out in the book.  Something else which is very important: this book does not hold back.  I have read books that promise to give you knowledge and discovered that they do the opposite.  Ian Rowland’s book does exactly what it says on the tin.  He explains the techniques and methods.  The book alone can only give you the methods, to properly make this work you need experience, some acting ability and a lot of seemingly trivial knowledge.

If you are interested in cold reading, whether academically, to learn to spot and block it or because you are an unscrupulous sort who wants to fake psychic ability you should definitely add this book to your library.

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Richard Dawkins Interviews Derren Brown

You all know my views on psychics by now, I hope.   The fact that so many people are still taken in by them is a real source of discomfort for me.  Their tricks and scams have been so well publicised that it is a testament to how deluded humans can be that they are still able to practice.

Richard Dawkins is probably the most famous speaker on atheist, anti-religious and sceptical viewpoints out there (though James Randi gives him a great run for his money!).  Derren Brown is a British illusionist who focuses on suggestion and who is guaranteed to entertain.  As someone involved in stage magic he is in an excellent position to notice when someone is running a con or using any one of the usual tricks that psychics use.   With thanks to the nice people at Bad Psychics (the largest sceptical and medium debunking site in the UK) for bringing this to my attention, I bring you the first part of an interview in which Brown and Dawkins discuss the phenomena of psychics, the reasons why people go to them (and why they shouldn’t) and the tricks that psychics use to make you believe in them.  This is an informed interview between two intelligent and experienced men.  Each part is around 10 minutes long and the next part will (or should) load automatically.

The first part is provided free online.  If you would like to support the work Dawkins and other people do, consider purchasing ‘The Enemies of Reason: The Uncut Interviews’ on DVD by clicking on this link.  The video can be seen after the jump: