# Word association illusion with mathematics

I recently heard illusionist Criss Angel on a radio show discussing his work. The key to any illusion is convincing the audience that they’re somewhat in control of what they’re experiencing, when in fact the illusionist is controlling the situation.

To illustrate this, Criss tried something live on the air, claiming that he was going to control the masses. However, he made an error in his delivery, and it didn’t work. I backed up a bit and broke it down, pinpointing the error. It’s actually very cool. Try it on your friends.

Here it is, with the corrections, along with one embellishment:

Men: Think of an odd number between 1 and 10.

Ladies: Think of an even number between 1 and 10.

I’m going to state some words after each number. When you hear your number, remember the word. Here we go:

1. Precious metal
2. Yarn
3. Cutlery
4. Golden color
5. Highly polished
6. Ball
7. Sharp
8. Cat’s toy
9. Kitchen utensil
10. Round

Now, everybody should be thinking of the word associated with their number. I want everybody to forget their number and think of their word. Now I’m going to rattle off some objects. When you hear an object that you can associate with your word in the best possible way, I want you to lock on to that object.

— Blue felt tip pen
— Penny postage stamp
— Carving knife
— Yellow ball of yarn
— Original oil painting
— Old felt hat
— South sea island
— Western stage coach
— Antique clock
— China coffee cup

Now everybody should have the final word they’re thinking of. Envision it falling from the sky towards you. You might want to step out of the way, since you’re probably thinking of a carving knife.

Ladies need not worry, because they’re thinking of a yellow ball of yarn.

For comparison, below is Criss’s delivered version, with the embellishment and error in bold:

Men: Think of an odd number between 1 and 10.

Ladies: Think of an even number between 1 and 10.

I’m going to state some words after each number. When you hear your number, remember the word. Here we go:

1. Precious metal
2. Yarn
3. Cutlery
4. Golden color
5. Highly polished
6. Ball
7. Sharp
8. Cat’s toy
9. Carving tool
10. Round

Now, everybody should be thinking of the word associated with their number. I want everybody to forget their number and think of their word.Now I’m going to rattle off some objects. When you hear an object that you can associate with your word in the best possible way, I want you to lock on to that object.

— Blue felt tip pen
— Penny postage stamp
Shining silver
— Carving knife
— Yellow ball of yarn
— Original oil painting
— Old felt hat
— South sea island
— Western stage coach
— Antique clock
— China coffee cup

Now everybody should have the final word they’re thinking of. Envision it falling from the sky towards you. You might want to step out of the way, since you’re probably thinking of a carving knife.

Ladies need not worry, because they’re thinking of a yellow ball of yarn.

Note here that I changed Criss’s ‘9. Carving tool‘ to ‘9. Kitchen utensil’, just to make it less obvious what’s happening. The error lies in the second batch of words that he rattled off, which included Shining silver. It was Shining silver that I locked onto, when in fact he’d intended me to think about the Carving knife.

This illusion reminds me of another classic that’s been around for a while. Max Maven told it to me once at the Magic Castle. Good stuff. The key is the delivery; keep talking quickly and don’t lose control of the situation. If you pause too long, you give the audience the opportunity to think of the less obvious objects.

It goes like this:

Think of a number between 1 and 10, but don’t tell me.

Now double it.

Now add 8 to that. You have new number.

Take your new number, and divide it by 2. You have a new number once again.

Now, I want you to subtract your original number from the number you have now. Concentrate on this number.

Let’s switch gears. I want you to think of the letter in the alphabet that corresponds with your number. That is, if your number is 2, think of B. If your number is 3, think of C. And so on.

Concentrate on that letter. Got it? OK, now, think of a country that begins with that letter. Can be anywhere. Got it? Great. Now concentrate on your country.

With your country in your mind, let’s go to the next letter in the alphabet. So, if your country begins with B, go to letter C. And so on.

You’re now thinking of your country and your other letter. Now, think of an animal that begins with that other letter. Got your animal? Good. Now concentrate and visualize the color of that animal. Got it? Good. Now concentrate on three things: your country, your animal, and the color of the animal. Try to see it in your mind.

Just remember that there are no grey elephants in Denmark.

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