Mind-reading as science, not magic

     Max Major administers a polygraph test to himself (Photo illustration courtesy of Max Major)

    Max Major administers a polygraph test to himself (Photo illustration courtesy of Max Major)

    Wouldn’t you love to be able to tell if another person is lying to you — or, better yet, read their minds?Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute is hosting a performer this weekend who can do both astoundingly well – but he says it’s a science, not magic.

    Max Major started doing magic tricks as a kid, but decided to broaden his repertoire as a teenager, when his dad quit smoking through hypnosis. “I thought ‘this is real magic'” he recalled.

    The performer from Washington, D.C. started studying that technique, as well as body language and reading people’s facial expressions. “There is no university for that,” he joked. Instead, he read old texts on body language, went to workshops, and sought out mentors.

    He also spent countless hours watching people. “It’s a lot of fun when you first start doing this, to sit in a coffee shop and try to figure out how people’s first dates are going, or what they are talking about.”

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    His current show “Think Again” is a mixture of magic, mind-reading, hypnosis, and suggestion.

    He says a lot of it is a matter of paying very close attention. “So often when we are in a conversation, we’re stuck in our own heads, we’re thinking about what we’re going to say next rather than paying attention to the person we’re talking to. So simply by looking for body language you will already be a better communicator.”

    Facial expressions offer many clues, but Major says we have all learned to control our faces pretty well to hide certain emotions, or feign others. It’s something we begin to learn as babies. So, he looks at the entire body, from the ground up. “If you watch somebody’s feet, they often reveal a lot more than their face, because we’re so used to presenting a face to others, so the direction their feet are pointed might reveal how interested they are in the conversation.”

    Major says when somebody’s feet are pointed away from the conversation, perhaps toward the door, it’s a good indication they have lost interest.

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