Have you ever seen The Mentalist?
It's a tv show where main character uses sharp, powerful observation (plus some highly-effective showmanship) to seem like a 'mind reader'. He even uses those skills to help the police department solve crimes.
Now... obviously, that's a TV show, but here's what's really cool about mentalism tricks:
It can absolutely (and pretty easily) be learned by any man.
...And while it's doubtful that you'll become an incredible asset to a police department, learning these mind reading tricks can actually be useful in other ways:
- You can use your heightened observation to strengthen your memory
- You can practice reading people to understand their hidden feelings
- You can powerfully entertain groups of people with your skill
...But the best reason to practice these mentalism tricks is to spend time around people (both watching and understanding them), and learn to relate better to them. And that empathy you get from understanding others, makes a truly classic man... but it doesn't hurt that a master mentalist is just incredibly cool to watch.
10 Incredibly Cool Mentalism Tricks (And Why They Work)
Now… before we get into these mind reading tricks, I want to note... they’re just tricks (not any essential life skills you need to be a better man).
...But they are an insanely cool, highly interesting art form to learn/practice.
10. Gray Elephants from Denmark
This is a simple trick that you can do with any audience, even just a single friend.
Now, ask that audience to think of a number between 1 and 10, and multiply it by 9. Then ask them to add the digits together and subtract 5.
Now... here's the crazy part that only you know:
No matter what their original number was, their final answer will be 4. It’s just a funny quirk of math. Cool, right?
Next, ask the audience to assign each letter of the alphabet a number: A is 1, B is 2, C is 3, etc. Tell them to stop when they reach their number… which you already know is 4 (so the letter D).
Now ask them to think of a country that begins with their letter (remember, everyone’s letter is D). And because there aren’t many countries that start with “D”, most people will choose Denmark.
…And then when you ask them to choose an animal with the next letter of the alphabet (which for everyone will be E), most people will come up with ‘elephant’. Ask them to think of the color of the animal.
Finally, guess out loud that they're thinking of gray elephants from Denmark. Amazing... and simple, right?
But how does it work?
Well, this mind reading trick relies on playing probabilities, meaning just choosing the most likely answer. Since you know that most people would pick Denmark and elephant, you can seem like you can read minds.
9. The Triangle Inside the Circle
Ask someone to think hard about a shape in his or her mind. Tell them “Think of a shape like a square, but not a square”… and just like with Denmark and elephants above, most people will think of a triangle.
Tell them to think of another shape around the first shape… and because there aren’t many shapes that fit symmetrically around a triangle, they will probably think of a circle.
Amaze them by telling them the shapes they were thinking of.
…And here’s a pro tip with this trick:
While you ask the person to think of shapes, discretely trace the shapes in the air with your hands, subconsciously planting the image in their mind.
This is called subliminal programming and it’s a common (incredibly cool) mentalism technique.
Check out this subliminal programming in action from The Mentalist:
8. It’s Always Five
You can easily use basic math to convince people that you can read minds (again, just like that math quirk with the Gray Elephants from Denmark trick above).
Here’s another one of those math tricks:
Ask someone to think of any number. Then tell them to add the next highest number to that first number (so if they chose 20, tell them to add 21). Then add nine. Then divide by two. Then subtract the original number.
…And no matter what their first number was, the final answer will be 5.
Now just pretend your psychic powers told you they were thinking of five and you’ll astound anyone.
7. Three of Diamonds
The key to the Three of Diamonds trick is subconscious perception... meaning you won’t actually do a trick, so much as influence how someone thinks.
...And you’ll be amazed how powerful just that little bit of influence can be.
Here’s how the trick is done:
- Ask someone to imagine any card from a deck, and tell them you'll guess what it is (spoiler: it's going to be the three of diamonds, because you're going to suggest it without them knowing).
- As you're describing what you want them to do, stealthily move your hands in front of you in the shape of a diamond.
- ...And punctuate your gestures in groups of three (see video for a powerful way to do this).
- Repeat each motion a few times subtly, then guess they are thinking of the three of diamonds.
Need help visualizing how to seamlessly act out this trick? Check out master mentalist Derren Brown:
6. The Red Hammer
This is a trick that relies on the unique way that language and thought relate to each other. That said, it’s actually amazingly simple.
It works by presenting a series of questions that are designed to create a specific idea in their head. By asking these questions, which subconsciously create an image in the person’s mind… you lead them to the answer you want.
Check out these questions to ask:
- What day is Christmas?
- What are hamburgers made of?
- What government did the USSR have?
- What side of the road do they drive on in Europe?
- Can you think of a color and a tool?
Now guess that they're thinking of a red hammer, and you're almost always right.
How? Because you slipped in the question about the USSR, which famously used a red flag with a sickle and hammer, that image is subconsciously in their mind. The other questions are really just there to cover your tracks.
5. The Rainbow Ruse
The Rainbow Ruse is a classic mentalist trick that makes you seem like you know incredible details about someone.
...But the secret is you're using simple psychology to make people think they're unique.
Here's one basic way to do it (the video below shows a more elaborate (yet highly impressive) ruse):
Tell someone you can 'read' their personality, and list a characteristic they have… while also having the opposite quality. For example:
Say, “You often try to improvise in situations, but you also like to make detailed plans.”
Now... one of those two vague statements (which are opposites) is true for pretty much every person alive, right? But since each person usually think they're unique, they'll see your statement as a vivid 'reading' of their personality.
...And even though basic rainbow ruses are easier to see through, the better you get at cold reading, the more complex you can make them. You can even use the details they reveal in the rainbow ruse to make more educated guesses.
This video shows Derren Brown again, performing a series of Rainbow Ruses all around the country:
4. Cold Read Your Subject
This is one of the most basic mind reading tricks... searching for environmental clues to guess personal details. It's basic, but it can have powerful results.
Cold-reading simply means observing small details, and coming to the most obvious conclusion about them.
For example... imagine someone has a visible scar on their hairline. Now... they're probably so used to it that they don’t think about it, but if you make a statement like “You hit your head when you were younger”, it can easily seem you know something about them psychically.
...But really, the information you observe told you everything.
So start to notice and observe little things in the environment, and you can become powerfully good at coming to the right conclusions about them.
3. ...And Read Their Reactions
With the above trick:
'Reading' the physical things you observe can make you seem like a powerful mentalist... but reading people's facial reactions takes it to the next level:
Just use human micro expressions, or a momentary loss of control over emotions.
...And you've seen them before, right? It's the momentary flicker of disgust on a girl's face as she gets hit on by a creepy guy... or the flicker of joy on a man's face when he gets a really good job offer.
So... learn these micro expressions in people, and you can read their real emotions (now, this guide explains them all, but here are a few most popular ones):
- Surprise: brows arch, forehead wrinkles, eyelids open, jaw drops
- Fear: forehead wrinkles in center, mouth tenses, upper eyelid raises, lower doesn't
- Anger: brows lower, nostrils dilate, lips together
- Happiness: cheeks raise, crow's feet near eyes, lips drawn up and back
But remember, all these reactions will be extremely subtle, so look closely.
Now... after you feel comfortable identifying those micro expressions in people, begin silently making predictions based on those micro expressions as practice for your mentalist readings. (for example... that girl is about to make an excuse to leave that conversation... or that man is about to grin and fist pump after he shakes hands with that interviewer).
This video explains these processes in detail:
2. Read Your Friend’s Mind with Your Fingers
Some mentalism tricks rely on reading others, or subtly suggesting choices for them... but some (like this one) require the clever use of a partner. Here's how it works (and it's incredibly easy):
Pull a friend aside and ask them to play along. Tell them that you're going to 'psychically guess' a number they have in mind, but explain that when you place your hands on their temples, they should clench their teeth the same number of times as the secret number.
Make sense? Now:
In front of a group, have someone whisper a number between 1 and 20 to your friend, and claim you can 'read' it. Gently put your hands on their temples, and count the number of times you feel the muscles in their temples tighten (which happens naturally ass you clench your teeth).
Your friend in this trick is called a 'plant', and mentalists have used plants for years as a way to seem psychic.
1. Shotgun Statements
Shotgun statements are another classic mentalist trick:
They allow you to seem psychic by making incredibly accurate statements about a person... but if those statements are broad enough, it's highly likely that some of them will be correct.
To use this technique, just guess about traits/events in a person's life, but be very broad in your guesses. So don’t say 'You have an aunt who died recently'... that’s too specific.
...But if you guess 'you or someone close to you has an elderly relative who died', you're very likely to be correct, right?
And people almost always assume that you have a mental gift, instead of assuming that your statements are flawed. Cool, right?
These mind reading and mentalism tricks are guaranteed to be fun for you and the people who witness you do them.
...So use them to relate to others, and just have a good time.