I mentioned earlier a subconscious (in some cases, conscious) resentment that laymen feel towards magicians. Actually, defensiveness is probably a better word than resentment although both feelings are there to some degree. In most cases this is not manifested by impoliteness since the feeling is involuntary and even the spectator is probably unaware of its existence. This “defensive resentment” is a psychological state based on the fact that one’s self esteem is deflated by the very idea that another human being can perform actions that cannot be explained. This by itself implies superior ability on the part of the performer and tends to signify the inferior brainpower of the spectator thus posing a threat to the ego.
There are, I believe, a number of ways to combat this defensiveness but before I explain them perhaps it would be wise to show how audiences behave as a result of this feeling.
Broadly, I find that people react in four different ways to a magician, one of which as we have already discussed is by heckling. This happens in a minority of cases and to lesser or greater degrees.
The most common reaction and thankfully the easiest to deal with is the good natured spectator who will relax his defences and, providing the performance is good, laugh and enjoy the magic with all the gusto at his command. The threat to his ego is still present, but I believe a certain kind of subconscious reasoning happens in his mind. It goes something like this; “This fellow is extremely clever, I can’t even begin to figure out how he does it so I’m not even going to try!” By doing this he placates his ego. After all, he’s got a good excuse now for not knowing how the tricks are done; he hasn’t tried to figure them out! By giving up before he starts, he cannot be defeated. He’s not taking part in a battle of wits so he can relax and enjoy himself.
He may even go so far as to identify subconsciously your abilities with his own. In other words his inner reasoning goes like this:- “This fellow is as clever in his field as I am in mine. Since I am endowed with certain abilities this fellow this fellow must be brilliant too!” He will then confirm his own reasoning my making such remarks as, “It’s absolutely fantastic how you do it” Actually he’s praising himself on a subconscious level by admiring the performer. He sees a fellow genius and justifies his inability to figure out the tricks by deciding that the magician, like himself, is on a plane higher than the ordinary mortal. Since they are BOTH members of a superior persons club there is no reason for the spectator to feel resentment since it is now decided in his subconscious mind that he is just as clever as the magician.
The reasoning in the above paragraph may sound a bit far fetched and theoretical to the reader but I do believe from experience that this type of reasoning takes place in the dark recesses of the spectator’s mind. And we believe that he is totally unaware, on a conscious level that it is happening