Review – Richard Wiseman – Weird Stuff: The Inside Story

Professor Richard Wiseman’s show was a real highlight of the festival. He is hugely entertaining and packed the show with many startling results from his many years of research into the psychology of illusion, paranormal beliefs and then further into ideas about luck. Introduced as one of the youngest members of the magic circle, followed by a degree and doctorate in psychology – his enthusiasm for the subject obvious and the audience was clearly engaged.

On illusions, we were shown how often we see things that simply aren’t there. This was demonstrated initially with an upside-down photo of a face that looked entirely normal until rotated 180 degrees, when it became very distorted and abnormal. Then a further series of other ‘faces’ appearing photos from both the natural and built enviroment, some were truly hiliarous (some “Angry Slippers” and “Confused Washing machine”!) and some very eeire. Richard explained we’d evolved to spot patterns at every opportunity, particularly something as important as a face. He pointed out how little control we have over our subconcious on this.

Richard moved on to discussing luck, in particular the perception that some people are considered “lucky” and some “unlucky”. This was brilliantly put in the context of illusion, explaning that to identify someone as generally lucky or unlucky is nothing more than very convincing illusion (with a tiny number of exceptions). The analysis was from a large study, with people asked to assess their “luckiness” (or otherwise) I found his subseqeunt discussion very inspiring, as he went on to confirm what’s wrong with a lot of the self help industry (not least because people always have so many self-help books on their shelves!) He then worked through set of pratical and well considered steps that would defintely make you “lucky” (for what it’s worth). Rather than list them all, two that particularly stood out were how unhelpful it is to only visualise the final acheived goal, far better to visualise yourself in the process of achieving the goal, and class that as success. Secondly, “lucky” people were better at finding opportunties in every situation, the advice being to to train yourself to see the silver lining in all situations, no matter how dire. For example and getting into the habit of phsyically writing these positive observations & opportunties down in a journal, which best way to reinforce them.

There was so much more in the show, hard to do it justice in this review – not least all all the magic tricks, humorous clips an (unbelievably) managing to make a chicken out of a tea towel at the end!) So, a very uplifting experience and I definitely left feeling luckier than when I’d arrived. I’ll be looking forward to Richard’s future events.