He instructs you to cut the deck into four piles. You do so. He then tells you that you are going to randomize the order of the cards by shuffling them around and moving cards from one pile to another. Pointing to a pile of cards, he instructs you to take the top three cards and place them at the bottom of that pile. Then, take the next three cards and place them, one each, on top of the three piles remaining on the table. You repeat the procedure with all four piles of cards. The cards should now be very well mixed.
The man then begins his patter in earnest. He asks you to confirm the fact that he has not touched the cards. You agree. In no way could he have manipulated how you would cut the cards or handle them. Again, you agree. With a smile, he asks you to turn over the top card from each pile. You are amazed. The four aces sit at the top of each of the four piles of cards. For a moment, your mind might actually entertain the possibility that real magic has been performed, though you "know" you've been duped.
The fact is, this trick can be taught in a couple of minutes to any child capable of understanding the instructions. It requires no fine motor skills for clever card handling since the performer does not even handle the deck. The only thing required is setting up the deck before the trick is performed and being able to do a little sales patter in which you get the audience to agree to a statement that is blatantly false.
1. The magician asked you to agree that he did not touch the cards during the trick: True
2. He asks you to agree that he did not influence you in any way in how the cards were cut: True
3. He asks you to agree that in no way did he manipulate you in the handling of the cards: FALSE
In fact, the only thing he did was manipulate you while creating the illusion in your mind that you were making free choices. If you don't see the manipulation yet, read through the description of the trick again. The magician did not allow you to choose how the cards would be shuffled once they were cut into four piles. Instead, he guided you through a pre-programmed series of moves--three cards to the bottom then three cards on top of the remaining piles--designed to move the four aces to the top of the four piles from their pre-placed position at the top of the deck! If you want to understand the mechanics of the trick, grab a deck of cards and try it. Just put the four aces at the top of the deck then simply follow the trick as outlined above.
It works with more than just cards. The phrase, "stacking the deck" means using a variation of this kind of trick to predetermine the outcome of any situation by placing what is to be chosen in a particular position then guiding the chooser through a predefined set of movements that forces that particular choice while giving the illusion of free choice. There are a number of other methods used to force a selection in stage magic. Many card tricks rely on forced selection, but the magician can't use the same force twice in his act. As he changes methods, he informs you that each new method is an assurance that he is not engaging in any sort of trickery. Maybe he fooled you on the last one, so this time he won't even touch the cards. Next time, perhaps he'll use the force called Magician's Choice. He'll give you three choices and ask you to pick one at random. You, of course, have no choice but to pick exactly what you are forced to pick.
How can that be? It's easy. Given three choices, A, B and C, suppose I want you to pick B. I ask you to pick one at random. If you happen to pick B, the force is done. If you pick A, I set A aside and ask you to pick from B and C. If you pick C, I declare that you've left your choice, B, on the table. Again, a cheap trick that most people will fall for if done with the requisite theatricality. Forced choice and sleight-of-hand are not only the prevue of stage magicians, though. Take a look at how it is done in real life.
The most enduring form of the forced choice in the U.S. and western Europe is the electoral process. This is such an obvious forced choice that it can, rather paradoxically, remain undetected even after it is pointed out. The key is the emotional involvement of the electors, which just happens to be the key to stage magic, too. Once you've convinced someone they are making a free choice, they will provide the evidence of the freedom of their choice for you. If human beings didn't possess this peculiar bit of psychology, stage magic wouldn't work. It wouldn't matter what the magician said. The forced choice would be seen for precisely what it is: forced. Instead, a little salesmanship on the part of the performer convinces the audience of what is to come before the trick is performed. The audience then dutifully sees exactly what they were told to see and the magician is free to manipulate events to his favor.
Here is another example of the techniques of stage magic at work. On the morning of September 11, 2001, you awoke to reports that the unthinkable had happened--a massive terrorist attack had occurred on U.S. soil. As the day unfolds, you learn the following facts. Four planes had been hijacked to be used as veritable flying bombs against high profile targets. Two of those planes, in front of thousands of witnesses and several video cameras, fly into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Later that morning, those towers collapse, leaving not even a bit of the structures left standing. In the Pennsylvania countryside, another of the hijacked planes crashes following an apparent heroic effort by the passengers to regain control of the aircraft from its hijackers. Also, something crashes into the Pentagon, causing massive damage, a huge fire ball and loss of life.
Eventually, it is announced that the damage at the Pentagon was caused by the fourth hijacked plane. This makes perfect sense to you. Four planes are hijacked, three are clearly accounted for, and something crashed into the Pentagon. The only logical choice is that the fourth plane crashed into the Pentagon. What doesn't occur to you is that you have been duped once again by another variation of the forced choice. Just like with the card trick, you don't think of the obvious, that the deck has been stacked and movements manipulated to force this particular choice.
And here we see that a subtle variation of the trick, also used in stage magic, has been employed to divert your attention. You have been given two possible scenarios that contradict the official story. One of them is blatantly silly, one is not. Yet, as any stage magician, salesman or professional politician knows, your mind will group the statements together and dismiss the second with the first. In other words, the truth about the trick has been told openly, but in such a way that you will reject the truth, sending you down any number of dead-end blind alleys searching for the secret of how it was done.
Take a moment again to review what you were told and what you actually saw with your own eyes. If you want to see how the trick is done, do not accept anything the magician tells you at face value. He is a liar. His job is to give you as much truth and openness as possible, for the purpose of proving to you that he is not manipulating events in any way, so that the critical lie that makes the trick work will go undetected by the average observer. In the case of 911, you were flooded with demonstrable facts that were horrifying, engaging your emotions to a high degree. Remember, the key to all trickery is the emotional involvement of the audience in supporting the lie. Each fact presented made the ensuing lies all the more believable.
Two planes really did crash into the twin towers. A plane really did crash into the Pennsylvania countryside. Something really did crash into the Pentagon. All of this is a matter of record, so everything that comes after, your mind will tell you, is a matter of record, too.