Combining psychology with close-up mastery and expert body language reading, mentalists blow minds all over the world. By dominating these skills, they can appear to have supernatural powers and perform awe-inspiring feats of magic such as mind-reading, hypnosis and illusion. If you’re wondering to yourself “What is a mentalist?” then you’ve come to the right place – we’re going to take an in-depth look at that question today!
You’ve probably already seen a few tricks in action that stunned you and made you doubt they were real, which is exactly the sign of a successful mentalism.
Mentalists can either practice their art in the performance world – giving shows, performing tricks and entertaining audiences – or in the personal and professional world – using their mastery of the craft to read and influence people around them.
An example of a performing mentalist would be the popular ones you’ve certainly already heard about such as Derren Brown, Max Maven, Kreskin and most recently Colin Cloud.
On the other hand, mentalists that use their skills in their personal and professional lives will always try to remain unknown as they don’t want you to know what they’re doing. It gives them an edge in any interaction. You can often encounter them, even if you don’t realize it, in anything that deals with law, detective work, chief executive positions and more.
They do appear very well represented in the fictional world though in shows such as “Lie to Me” and of course, “The Mentalist”.
If you’re wondering how Mentalists do their performances and tricks, it all comes down to five essential pillars of knowledge as I’ve mentioned before in the mentalism techniques article. They are:
As we’ll explore more below, these key skills, abilities and schools of knowledge are what allows a Mentalism to perform the arts successfully. Not only is reading people quickly and effectively necessary but you also have to know how to force a thought into their heads, how to misdirect their attention for your own gain, how to use sleight of hand to subtly make changes to the environment or items and of course, theatrics to tie it all together into a smooth, flawless and convincing performance.
On top of all of this, you also need to be confident and relaxed, traits that come naturally with time and practice.
Now, let’s take a closer look at another popular question that you’re probably asking yourself right now: How do mentalists do their tricks?
Although mind reading is the part that stuns the most people – with good reason – it’s not truly an impossible feat of magic. What it is though, is an expert knowledge on the theory behind it and countless hours of practice. It all boils down to one essential thing – non-verbal communication. By reading your facial cues, microexpressions, body language and other reactions that you can’t control, a mentalist will be able to know how you really feel and for example, if you’re lying.
Doing this effortlessly and effectively takes an enormous amount of training and that’s why it’s not easy to be a mentalist. Not only do you have to learn the theory but you’ve got to put it into practice again and again until it becomes a natural skill to read people. There’s also another essential part to mind-reading that’s extremely interesting and effective. Instead of reading and guessing what you’re thinking, a mentalist will severely influence your thoughts and force a word, an image, a number or a thought to pop into your head. They do this by either asking specific questions, saying specific things or by doing subtle hand motions to heavily influence you.
By combining these two skills, they’re able to “read” you mind and floor you with their performance.
There are a few ways for mentalists to guess names but they all have a basis on the previously mentioned “reading”. A good mentalist will do it in such a theatrical and subtle way that you won’t realize it but they’re just asking you a few questions or prompting up letters and other similar things to funnel down their options in an increasing manner, getting closer and closer to your name as they go. They don’t do this in an obvious manner, of course, but they’ll say something like “I’m feeling it’s an easily shouted name (they nod), quite short (they smile) and easy to pronounce (eyes open in surprise)”.
Notice that the “target” will give away non-verbal cues (like the ones I exemplified) that tell the mentalist if he’s right or wrong without ever compromising his trick, as he doesn’t have to ask direct questions that could ruin his performance. In a short amount of time, the mentalist will close in further and further on the name, finally saying that it starts with a letter (for example) and then proceeding to guess it correctly. It takes a lot of practice not only in body language reading but also a mastery in the art of the performance and theatrics to ensure that it looks perfectly smooth and magical.
Every mentalist will have their own unique ways of going about this. They’ll put their own spin on the questions and interactions and come up with creative and clever ways to narrow down on the names to finally get the correct one. It’s an astonishing trick to watch and a joy to perform as well.
So to recap:
Simply put, a Mentalist is someone who performs acts of mentalism either on shows or in daily life with the intent to either amaze or figure out people. By using the multiple sources of knowledge that make up the art, they’re able to accurately “read” people, force thoughts into their heads and manipulate the environment around them without getting caught, giving them a seemingly super-natural set of abilities.
In the performance sector they can blow your mind and leave you in awe while in the personal and professional one they can know your true intentions and figure out if you’re lying or not, giving them a massive edge in any interaction.
Now that you know what a Mentalist is and how much of an edge it gives you in life, I bet you want to learn how to become a mentalist yourself. You’re in luck as I’ve already written a guide on it! If you want an even more in-depth, step by step guide to take you from rookie to expert then be sure to take a look at the Master Mentalist course below:
And there you have it, a full, in-depth look at what a mentalist is. I hope I’ve been able to clear your doubts and that I’ve awakened an interest in you for this popular magical art.
Thanks as always for reading and I’ll see you on the next one!