The Psychology of Magic

  • Discussion
Photograph of Claudia Hammond during a radio recorded discussion in the Forum at Wellcome Collection.
Claudia Hammond, Steven Pocock. Source: Wellcome Collection. CC BY-NC.

What you’ll do

Come and listen in to the recording of a BBC World Service radio programme exploring what magic can tell us about how our brains work. You’ll hear about issues raised by our upcoming Smoke and Mirrors exhibition, including ‘choice blindness’ and fake news.

This programme is part of ‘The Evidence’, a series exploring the challenges our world face today. ‘The Evidence’ will be broadcast in April 2019 on the BBC World Service.

About your contributors

Photograph of Claudia Hammond

Claudia Hammond


Claudia Hammond is an award-winning broadcaster, writer and psychology lecturer. She is the presenter of ‘All in the Mind’ and ‘Mind Changers’ on BBC Radio 4 and ‘The Evidence’ and ‘Health Check’ on the BBC World Service.

Photograph of Matthew L Tompkins

Matthew L Tompkins


Dr Matthew L Tompkins is an American magician-turned-psychologist. His research, which has been featured across various international media outlets, including the Washington Post and BBC Future, focuses on the cognitive psychology of illusions. Matt was working as professional magician before he began his academic career, and his experiences performing continue to influence his work. He recently became the first member of the Magic Circle to be admitted on the basis of a peer-reviewed scientific publication.

Photograph of Chris French

Chris French


Professor Chris French is a psychologist specialising in the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences, cognition and emotion. He is Head of the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit in the Psychology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Photograph of Elsa Richardson

Elsa Richardson


Elsa Richardson is a Chancellor’s Fellow in the History of Health and Wellbeing at the University of Strathclyde. Her research examines histories of nutrition, vegetarianism, other alternative dietary cultures, mental stress and gastric disorders in late-19th and early-20th-century Britain.

Photograph of Will Davies

Will Davies


Dr Will Davies is a Reader in Political Economy at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is author of ‘Nervous States: How Feeling Took Over the World’ (Jonathan Cape, 2018), ‘The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold us Wellbeing’ (Verso, 2015) and ‘The Limits of Neoliberalism: Authority, Sovereignty and the Logic of Competition’ (Sage, 2014).

Logo for BBC World Service

BBC World Service


The BBC World Service is the world’s largest international broadcaster. It broadcasts radio and television news, speech and discussions in more than 40 languages to many parts of the world.