Don Norman: Designing For People

Nielsen Norman Group

Sleights of mind : what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions (Macknik, Martinez-Conde & Blakeslee)

Macknik, S. L., Martinez-Conde, S., & Blakeslee, S. (2010). Sleights of mind: what the neuroscience of magic reveals about our everyday deceptions. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 

A fascinating book revealing the properties of cognition that are manipulated so expertly by magicians to make us believe what they wish us to believe.

Learning the tricks only makes them more fascinating.  I too have been to the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. I've had tricks explained to me in great, exhausting detail, but nonetheless, still fooled by the very tricks I had just had explained. The skills are amazing. And their understanding of human cognition is astounding.

The first two authors are neuroscientists, using their studies of magic to discover new phenomena to explore scientifically. As is usual, the artists and practitioners discover phenomena long before scientists do. The third author is a gifted science writer: the combination of the three makes for engaging reading.

I consider myself somewhat knowledgeable about magic and extremely expert about human cognition. But I learned a lot from this book.

Highly recommended. Enjoyable reading, while being educational about both magic and cognition.

Sleights of Mind: On

Over the years, many people have applied the tricks used by magicians as a guide to successful product design.  I would be remiss if i did not mention my colleague and fellow principal of the Nielsen Norman group (NNg), Bruce (Tog) Tognazzini's early paper on the topic (and the subject of many of his lectures and tutorial sessions for NNg:

Tognazzini, Bruce "Tog." (1993), "Principles, Techniques, and Ethics of Stage Magic and Their Application to Human Interface Design," Proceedings of INTERCHI, 1993 (Amsterdam, The Netherlands, April 24-29, 1993). ACM, New York, pp 355-362. (Available on his website at .)

Also see 

Myketiak, C., Curzon, P., McOwan, P., & Black, J. (2012). Teaching HCI through magic. Paper presented at the Contextualised Curriculum Workshop at CHI 2012, Austin, Texas, May 2012. (Paper on the Kent website)

(and the website for in the UK that offers magic shows that:

explain a range of topics that underpin the science of human error and its application in making medical devices safer to use. ...  The show appeals to a wide audience, and highlights how psychology, computer science, engineering, maths, psychology other social sciences are important if we are to make technology safely work for us.