The Tucson Conference 2014 - 20th Anniversary

APRIl 21-26, 2014 Tucson - University Park Marriott

under the direction of the Center for CONSCIOUSNESS STUDIES, University of Arizona





Sleights of Mind: The Illusory Nature of Perception and Deception

Presenter:  Stephen L. Macnik

Date:          Monday, April 21, 2014

Session:    9:00 am - 1:00 pm

Room:        TBA

Stephen L. Macknik


This workshop will review how our brain constructs—rather than reconstructs—the  world we see, and will feature some of the most exciting novel illusions created by the best and most cutting-edge illusion innovators and magicians of the new millennium.

All our life, every object we see, every person we know and every incident we experience, are derived from brain processes, and not necessarily the result of an event in the real world. The same neural machinery that interprets the sensory inputs also creates our thoughts, imaginations and dreams; thus the world we experience and the world we imagine have the same physical bases in the brain.  Just as physicists study the most minute subatomic particles and the largest galactic conglomerates to understand the universe, neuroscientists must examine the cerebral processes underlying perception to understand our experience of the universe.

Illusions are perceptual experiences that do not match the physical reality. Our perception of the outside world is generated indirectly by brain mechanisms, so all visual perception is illusory to some extent. The study of illusion is critical to understanding the basic mechanisms of sensory perception, as well as to treating neural diseases. The illusion community includes cognitive scientists, ophthalmologists, neurologists, painters, sculptors, magicians, mathematicians and graphic designers that use a variety of methods to unveil the underpinnings of illusory perception.

Magic tricks fool us because humans have hardwired processes of attention and awareness that are hackable—a good magician uses your mind's own intrinsic properties against you in a form of mental jujitsu. The insights that magicians have gained over centuries of informal experimentation have led to new discoveries in the cognitive sciences, and they also reveal how our brains work in everyday situations. If you've ever bought an expensive item you'd sworn you'd never buy, the salesperson was probably a master at creating the "illusion of choice," a core technique of magic. The implications of "neuromagic" go beyond illuminating our behavior; early research points to new approaches for everything from the diagnosis of autism to marketing techniques and education.



Stephen L. Macknik, PhD  is Director of the Laboratory of Behavioral Neurophysiology at Barrow Neurological Institute. He received a B.A. in Psychobiology, Psychology, and Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D in Neurobiology at Harvard University. He was trained in neurobiology at Harvard Medical School in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate David Hubel. and also with Prof. Zach Mainen at Cold Spring Harbor Lab. He led his first independent laboratory at University College London before coming to BNI in 2004.  A special interest in the laboratory is the study of microscopic blood flow driven by perception and awareness, and occurring during disease states.

Steve is a member of American Epilepsy Society, Society for Neuroscience, Vision Sciences Society, Neural Correlate Society (Founder), Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, Association for Chemoreception Studies, Spanish Society for Neuroscience (SENC). and Associate of Behavior and Brain Sciences. He coedited Visual Perception Part 2, Volume 155: Fundamentals of Awareness, Multi-Sensory Integration and High-Order Perception (Progress in Brain Research) (Progress in Brain Research), and coauthored Neuronal correlates of visibility and invisibility in the primate visual system, Microsaccadic eye movements and firing of single cells in the striate cortex of macaque monkeys, The function of bursts of spikes during visual fixation in the awake primate lateral geniculate nucleus and primary visual cortex, The role of spatiotemporal edges in visibility and visual masking, Optical images of visible and invisible percepts in the primary visual cortex of primates, and Dichoptic Visual Masking Reveals that Early Binocular Neurons Exhibit Weak Interocular Suppression: Implications for Binocular Vision and Visual Awareness.