Seeing the impossible: the impact of watching magic on positive emotions, optimism, and wellbeing

Richard Wiseman, Caroline Watt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Watching a magic trick is a unique experience in which seemingly impossible events appear possible but without any suspension of disbelief. Unfortunately, relatively little work has examined the psychological impact of this fascinating experience. In the current study, participants first completed a measure of the degree to which they disliked magic (Loathing of Legerdemain Scale: LOLS) and then watched a video that either contained a series of magic tricks (magic video) or carefully matched non-magic tricks (control video). Participants then rated the degree to which they experienced positive epistemic emotions (Epistemically Related Emotion Scale: ERES), their belief about impossible events being possible in the future (Modal Judgment Task: MJT), general optimism (State Optimism Measure: SOM) and subjective wellbeing (Satisfaction With Life Scale: SWLS). Compared to participants who watched the control video, those who saw the magic video reported more positive epistemic emotions on the ERES. There were no significant differences on the MJT, SOM and SWLS. Participants' LOLS scores were negatively correlated with the ERES, SOM and SWLS, suggesting that those who like magic are more likely to experience positive epistemic emotions, have higher levels of general optimism, and express greater satisfaction with their lives. These findings are discussed within the context of short-term and long-term exposure to magic, along with recommendations for future work.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere17308
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2024


  • Humans
  • Female
  • Male
  • Optimism
  • Emotions
  • Adult
  • Young Adult
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Adolescent


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