How Does Mentalism Work | Did You Know This?

A Mentalist is an individual who performs mental tricks for entertainment purposes.

He is an entertainer, not someone engaged in scientific experiments.

How Does Mentalism Work? The performer of Mentalism and Mind reading tricks (The Mentalist) is skilled in body language, misdirection, psychological manipulation, and performance skills. He is using his knowledge and skills to his advantage to create a convincing illusion of the ability to read minds and demonstrate supernatural mental power.

His act will appear to demonstrate mind-reading, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and foresight.

Whereas a Magician creates visual illusions, a Mentalist creates mental ones.

Body Language

Body language is the gestures that are used by the body to aid communication.

They may be intentional, but typically they are unintentional.

These gestures might be the posture or movements of the body or expressions.

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Mentalists are skilled at picking up these signals sent through body language and they are used in conjunction with other factors to establish the thought process of an individual.

Five Examples of POSITIVE Body Language

Let’s discuss a few examples of positive body language:

  • Head tilted to one side: This shows that the person is interested in what is being said and listening carefully.
  • Rubbing hands together briskly: This could just mean that the person is cold, but if you discount that, it means that the person is excited and is anticipating something.
  • Stroking chin or beard: It tells the mentalist that the individual is deep in thought or is trying to make a decision. It suggests that the individual is interested and thoughtful.
  • Leaning towards someone: Leaning towards someone suggests that you like them and are interested in them. The whole-body leans towards the person, but this can backfire if they lean too close and impinge on personal space.
  • Firm handshake: A firm, but not excessively firm, handshake will demonstrate confidence and respect. Reaching out for a handshake before the other individual will demonstrate interest.

Five Examples of NEGATIVE Body Language

And now also examples of negative body language:

  • Arms crossed on the chest: A very defensive posture and can suggest that the individual disagrees with points being made.
  • Hand placed on the cheek: This states that a person is lost in thought or considering a matter. Often this is carried out with a furrowed brow which confirms concentration. If an individual has this posture then they are quite possibly not listening anymore.
  • Pulling their ear: This is an indication that someone is trying to make a decision, but is still indecisive.
  • Sitting on the edge of a seat: This is an indication that you are mentally or physically on the edge (in suspense).
  • Locked Ankles: If a person has their ankles locked together (either when seated on while standing) it means that person is nervous or maybe apprehensive.

These are just a few examples of body language or ways that an individual communicates in a non-verbal way.

Mentalists are constantly monitoring to pick up clues from these unconscious actions.

Frequently these actions may say much more than the individual is speaking aloud.

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Body language is not exact.

An allowance has to be made for people’s individual habits and the situation, but they can be very valuable.


Misdirection is a form of deception used in Mentalism where the attention of the audience is intentionally focused on one thing to distract them from noticing another.

Misdirection takes advantage of the fact that the human mind can only concentrate on one thing at a time.

That definition is straight to the point but if we want to look at how Mentalists make use of this we should consider a couple of examples.

To disguise a move

When carrying out one to one mind reading a useful tool is to “ask a question.”

When you ask someone a question, they momentarily have to look inside themselves to retrieve the answer.

This is often long enough to distract them from the “now” and cover up a move the Mentalist wants to make.

A good question would be to ask them to picture a process and then define how they do it.

This will take them a moment or two to run a simulation of that process through their mind to get the answer.

While they are concentrating on that they will not be conscious of what the mentalist is doing.

To hide the method

Often a Mentalist will pretend to be explaining how they do something to distract the subject or audience how they are really doing it.

While the audience is concentrating on the explanation, they cannot be working out how the Mentalist is really doing the trick (remember I said people can only concentrate on one thing at a time).

Top Mentalists constantly use misdirection in all their tricks and a false explanation is a perfect way of doing this.

Creating False memories

This is an advanced technique that is used by professional Mentalists.

Professional Mentalists have a clear script they use for each trick.

This script usually is a commentary on what is happening and will change the facts slightly so the audience remembers what was said rather then what was done when thinking back on the trick.

Example: At one point in a trick you ask the volunteer “to cut the cards“, then later on in the trick you say: “so, earlier you mixed the cards.

Then later on when recapping you say, “so, you shuffled the cards.

During this example, you stage by stage altered the recollection of the audience.

This misdirection can last way after the trick was completed.

In the early days, in India, when the trick that features the magician charming a rope (like a snake with a flute), people recalled that a boy climbed up the rope and disappeared in mid-air.

In actual fact, the boy never disappeared but simply slid down the rope or climbed onto a balcony while the audience was distracted by the performer.

For years people talked about the trick and recalled the erroneous version of events and when describing the trick to friends told how the boy disappeared.

This is how widespread belief in this famous trick became a phenomenon in India.

Psychological Manipulation

Derren Brown, a top British Mentalist, often puts over that he is debunking the claims of fake psychics by using psychology, as he talks his way through a trick.

He describes what he is doing as psychology and uses misdirection in this commentary to disguise the Mentalist tricks he is using.

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It is a very clever way of distracting the audience and I have to admit that his explanation of how he did the tricks was very plausible, but I still have no idea whether his explanation is true or he just used a clever magic trick to produce the result.

We will now take a look at some examples of Psychological Manipulation that might occur in everyday life.

Example 1

Say, for example, you are on a date.

Choose something at the beginning of the date that will cause a rush of adrenaline.

Adrenalin will stimulate arousal in the brain.

This will create a belief in the other person that they are really enjoying spending time with you.

They will later attribute that feeling of positive emotion to the fact that they are attracted to you.

Example 2

A manipulation often employed by Benjamin Franklin (and later named after him) was a way of making someone like you.

When you feel someone does not like you very much, ask to borrow a pen.

This is such an insignificant favor that virtually everyone will agree.

After accepting your request then the person will feel much better about you and decide that perhaps you are ok.

Example 3

If you want to find out if someone likes you, talk to them and every time they use a word, or its synonym, smile and nod.

If the person does like you, they will subconsciously start to use that word more regularly.

Mentalists have a whole library of simple tricks that they can use to manipulate people in a more specific way.

A Mentalist has honed the skills required to create a new reality in the minds of the audience.

There is a saying that states “Perception is Reality.”

Using Psychology, a Mentalist is able to change the perception of the audience, to create for them a new reality that they slip into without realizing.

The Mentalist will guide the participant down a path that has been planned prior to the performance.

Communication is 93% visual and communication is used to nudge the participant along the direction the Mentalist wants them to travel.

Say for example the Mentalists want the participant to think of Triangles, they will imperceptibly make a triangle shape when talking.

Later when asked for a shape they will select a triangle.

Dropping keywords into a conversation can also guide the participant along a certain path, A mentalist has to learn these techniques.

Performance Skills

Performing Mentalism takes a lot of people skills.

The Mentalist has to take control of the audience so that they see what he wants them to see, and retain the memories that he wants them to retain.

It is all about working for the crowd.

Every piece of spoken word, every expression, and every posture should be made with the express purpose of achieving an end.

You should know the journey you want the audience to make and everything you do should be connected with guiding them along that path. In other parts of this article, we have talked mostly about the methods of performing these mental illusions, in this section we are looking at the presentation.

Required Skills for the mentalist performance include:


The mentalist act is all about taking the audience on a journey that begins in point (a) and takes them to point (b).

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It has to be an enjoyable experience and professionally executed.

The audience has to like the performer as a person. To this end when on stage the mentalist has to be a performer.


The performance should be telling a story so that the performance establishes a new reality in which disbelief is suspended.


The performer should be adaptable so that whatever audience is present, the performer can be relevant.


All the top performers have the ability to bring humor to the situation.

After all, the audience has come to the venue to have fun, to enjoy themselves.

Public Speaking

A Mentalist has to have the ability to speak naturally and remember long scripts, linking in body language, psychology, and manipulation into the act, so each supports the other.

The Mentalist

These days the audience at a typical show is not coming to see real magic or supernatural events.

They know it is a trick, a technique, a skillful performance.

They are far more sophisticated than audiences of the past.

They will watch the performance and be filled with wonder, searching for an explanation of how the illusion was carried out.

Most Mentalists work on this approach, almost challenging the audience to work it out, admitting that it is not real mind-reading which then leaves the audience to wonder how on earth they made it appear real.

Sometimes, like Derren Brown, the mentalist will offer an explanation of how it was done, but of course, the audience never knows if it’s the true explanation.

A great performer has the audience thinking about the trick long after they have returned home.

Do not confuse the stage mentalist with academics carrying out research into the brain and trying to create real telepathy, through transmitting real brainwaves and thoughts.

Yes, technology has allowed simple instructions to control a computer, for example, to be transmitted from the mind, using technology.

This is something completely different and the two should never be confused.

How To Become Mentalist

If you’re interested in learning Mentalism and becoming a Mentalist, the best and fastest way how to do it is to take an online course.

I personally tried many online courses and I can recommend this course that will teach you Mentalism and Mind reading step by step, even if you’re a complete beginner.

It’s honestly the best online training you can get.

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Final Thoughts

The skills that a mentalist learns have a huge number of applications in other fields.

To understand how to read people’s emotions from body language and to be able to implant an idea into someone else’s brain, pushing them towards certain actions can be exploited in so many ways.

You can see how people skilled in this way in the past would be confused with Sages, and could achieve positions of power in history.

As a mentalist, you have no need to learn sleight of hand or purchase elaborate tricks that create visual illusions.

You, instead, have to learn and practice the mental techniques until you no longer have to think about them when performing.

You will instinctively know how to implant an idea or read how someone is reacting to you. It just takes a lot of study and practice.

Improve Magic

I believe that life is magic. I'm a playing cards collector, I love performing magic tricks and I'm also the owner of a small magic shop. Apart from that I like to explore different kinds of supernatural magic that we all have in our lives and I like to share what I learn... I'm great fan of Harry Potter...

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