For years, audiences have been thrilled by the amazing performances of master magicians, such as David Blaine and Derren Brown. Now, the results of a new experiment announced September 11 at the BA Festival of Science in Liverpool suggests that such magical feats can also work wonders with children’s confidence and social skills.
The study, conducted by Rebecca Godfrey, Dr Sarah Woods, and Professor Richard Wiseman from the University of Hertfordshire, involved assessing the effect of teaching secondary school children some seemingly impossible illusions, including how to magically restore a rope that has been cut in half, and read another person’s mind.
“Learning magic requires self-discipline, an understanding of how other people think, and an ability to entertain,” noted psychologist Professor Wiseman. “Also, unlike playing computer games, it encourages children to interact with their friends and family. Because of this, we thought it might be a unique and effective way of developing an important set of psychological skills.”
The project involved 50 pupils aged between 10 and 12 at two schools in Hertfordshire. Assessments, taken both before and after just a single lesson at ‘magic school’, revealed dramatic psychological effects, with the results suggesting a significant increase in both sociability and confidence. The researchers also monitored the pupils during a standard lesson commonly used to increase self-esteem, and discovered that performing magic proved more effective at promoting both social skills and confidence.
Initial findings suggest that some children with low self-esteem may also benefit from learning and performing the tricks. Commenting on this part of the project, Rebecca Godfrey noted, “It is early days yet, but these results are very encouraging and we hope that this approach can be used to develop new and exciting ways of reaching out to these children.”
Marvin Berglas from Marvin’s Magic, noted: “These results confirm the many letters and emails that we receive from children saying how their new found talents have elevated their playground status. Also, magic encourages children to interact with their friends and family, and is also both fun and cool.”
Materials provided by British Association for the Advancement of Science. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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