The Mentalist (video & transcript)

Here’s a trick and a treat… By day, Alexander George is Amherst’s Rachel and Michael Deutch Professor of Philosophy. By night, he’s been known to perform as a mentalist—an apparent reader of minds. Watch as he demonstrates a feat with Katherine Duke ’05 from the College’s Office of Communications, and look out for Duke’s feature article about George’s act in the upcoming winter issue of Amherst magazine.  

The Mentalist

October 30, 2018

Watch as Amherst Philosophy Professor Alexander George conducts a "little experiment in imagination and influence" on Katherine Duke ’05, assistant editor, Office of Communications.


-There's a coin in your hand and the magician does something and it's no longer in your hand.  Your pocket was empty, the magician does something and now there's a card in your pocket. Those are wonderful, but that's quite different from there's a thought in your mind and now the mentalist has grasped it.

This is a little experiment in imagination and influence.

So I have here a few cards, and I'd like you to imagine that they're all Queens.  Can you do that? No problem.

-All different Queens?

-Yes, all four Queens. Okay?

Now we're going to remove either the red Queens or the black Queens. And you're going to choose what to imagine. Do you imagine that we're going to remove the red Queens or the black Queens?

-I imagine we'll remove the red.

-Remove the red?


-Okay. So, you can change your mind if you want or you can stick that.

-I'll stick with it.

-Okay. So, I've put the Red Queens right here, okay? Can you imagine that?

-Mmm hmm.

-Alright, you have imagined. And now I want you to imagine that I'm going to take one of these Queens, one of these red Queens, turned it face up and put it back. Okay?


-Now, which would you like to imagine that I've turned face up and put back in the pack?

-The Queen of Diamonds.

-The Queen of Diamonds. Okay. Was that a free choice?


-Seem like a free choice to you?

-Yes, I guess.

-Okay, but if I give you the opportunity to change your mind, would you like to?


-Not at all?


-Now tomorrow or even tonight when you return to your room, you will ask yourself what would have happened if I had chosen the other one. So, I'm gonna give you five seconds to luxuriate in that choice. Would you like to stick with the Queen of Diamonds?


-You would.

-Yes, I will stick with the Queen of Diamonds.

-Okay, that's what you've imagined you've placed face up.

-Mmm hmm.

-Well, I said that this was a little experiment in imagination but in influence as well. Your imagination. My influence. Because although it might not have felt as if you were guided, in fact, the only Queen that is face up in here is the Queen of Diamonds.


-Now you might still be suspecting, because I can see that you're a skeptical person, that there was some kind of funny sleight of hand that took place, but just to forestall that thought, I want you to know that I took this Queen from a different deck so sleight of hand would have been very, very difficult.

I also want you to know that I was so confident in my abilities to influence you that I didn't even bother to bring any other Queen.

And that was an experiment in imagination and influence.