16-Week Magic Course Proposal

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If you were the newly appointed chair for the study of conjuring arts, where would you begin?

Here is the 16-week course proposal I sent to Carleton University in my application package. If you missed the article that outlined why this mattered to me, you can read it here. Given that I think the greatest challenge in any curriculum is finding an effective way of matching assessment with what is taught on course.

In a future article, I will examine the various ways I think a magician’s work can be measured, and the advantages of measuring it. A lot came to mind on that front, when I was doing the research to create this outline. With this in mind, please note the following proposal, is exactly that: An outline. It is meant to serve as a preview, giving you an idea of what teaching the science of magic to an undergraduate might look like.

For those of you specifically interested in the full proposal document, containing: Lesson plans, activity outlines, and more, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

The Science of Magic

Alex Kazam

Brief biographical information

For year, magicians have used science to manipulate the focus of a participant, deceive an audience, and use errors in human vision to “trick” the viewer into seeing and believing an altered reality.  Have you ever pondered how it works? Have you ever thought about how magicians use our brains against us when performing tricks? Or have you ever wanted to explore how you can use psychological principles and the physiology of the brain to perform tricks that can fool any unsuspecting bystander?

This course studies basic brain function, the psychology involved in magic, and principles and methodologies that magicians use all over the world. You will explore your own personal connection to magic while studying and applying the Science of Magic.

Outline of the Course

  1. Psychology and Magic 3-4 weeks
  2. The Brain and Illusion 3-4 weeks
  • Manipulation of Attention
  1. Moment of Insight
  2. Forcing
  3. Amodal Completion and the Brain
  • Student project – research and practical application of content


Psychology and Magic

  • Introductory assignment-What is your experience with magic and conjuring? How do you feel about it? Consider how you feel as an audience member and as a magician. What draws you to this field?

Write a 3-5 page paper explaining the impact magic has had on your life up to this point.

  • Basic psychological principles that affect the way we “see” the world around us
  • A in depth study of research and analysis of psychology.
  • Summarization of psychology and how it relates to magic

Write a 5-7 page paper explaining how magicians use psychological principles when performing in front of an audience.  Cite your sources.


The Brain and Illusion

  • Basic physiology of the brain and its function
  • What the brain “sees” when it perceives the world around us
  • Summarization of the brain and magic

Write a 5-7 page paper explaining how the brain functions and how that brain function manipulates what we “see” during a magician’s routine.  Cite your sources.

Manipulation of Attention

  • Explore the methods magicians use to draw the attention of the audience toward specific focal points while drawing attention away from other points.

Moment of Insight

  • Explore the moment when a trick is no longer a trick. This is the Aha! moment when you understand how to perform the trick.


  • Explore the method of forcing and practice applying that method

Amodal Completion and the Brain

  • Explore how amodal completion affects the brain
  • Practice using amodal completion to trick the brain of the audience

Culminating Performance Student Project

  • This is the chance to put it all into practice! Consider the research and the practical applications to develop a routine
  • Perform your routine for others outside of our class
  • Write a 3-5 page paper that explains how successfully you used science to perform magic!

Suggested Reading and Sources

What Magic Means to Me by Alex Kazam. August 28, 2017. http://thealexkazam.com/2017/08/28/magic-meaning/


The Psychology of Magic and Magic of Psychology (Archive of research articles) SOMA https://www.frontiersin.org/research-topics/2464/the-psychology-of-magic-and-the-magic-of-psychology


Sleights of Mind by George Johnson. New York Times. Aug. 21, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/21/science/21magic.html


Magic and the Brain: Teller Reveals the Neuroscience of Illusion by Jonah Lehrer. www.wired.com. April 20, 2009. https://www.wired.com/2009/04/ff-neuroscienceofmagic/


The Science Behind Magic:  Study Reveals Psychology at Work During Card Tricks. Nationalpost.com. February 11, 2015. http://nationalpost.com/news/canada/the-science-behind-magic-study-reveals-psychology-at-work-during-card-tricks


Into the Magic Shop:  A Neurosurgeons Quest to Discover the Mysteries of the Brain and the Secrets of the Heart by James R. Doty M.D. Penguin Random House LLC. 2016

York University, Alex Kazam, Guest, Lecture, Speaker, Class, Neuroscience, Neural Basis of Behaviour Truth Lies Youtube Magician Psychology Mystery

Alex Kazam – Guest Lecture @ York U. 2011.