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Perfect predictions are not so perfect...

The title of the thread represents the conclusion I came to after going to Derren Brown's Infamous. The show was great, but that's not what I want to point out with this thread.

So there was I, in the first rows of the Palace Theatre in London, watching Derren do what he does best. Entertain.
On to his next effect, he asked a lovely lady from the audience to write a word she is thinking of down on a piece of paper, fold it and put it in her pocket. He then asked her to come on stage. When she arrived, Derren gave her a letter that she had to read out loud. The letter said something along these lines: "Please don't react, but I believe you are thinking about the word *airplane*" She read this text out loud. Then she asked her what word she was thinking of. Of course it was *airplane*. My immediat reaction was one exactly opposite to what one would expect from this kind of effect. I wasn't impressed at all. The effect was good, of course (or dare I say, only the method was good), but it didn't get any reaction out of me. "I'm used to this stuff and I have an idea about how it works" I said to myself. I looked around me only to notice that nobody was having a positive reaction. Everybody was like "meh..."

When mentalists do the classic type of prediction which is having the spectator call out what he is thinking and ONLY AFTER reveal the prediction, people are amazed!
This *perfect prediction* as I took the liberty to call it, didn't get any reaction at all.

Now why is that?
Sep 2, 2007
The dividing line between great reaction and no reaction can be a fine one.

One issue Derren Brown has to contend with is that people expect him to get things right, to know what word they're thinking of, etc. For him to get a word right, compared with all the things his audiences have seen him achieve over the years, is not that impressive. The audience all know he's going to get it right, and then he does, so there's no conflict and no drama. For you or me, someone who isn't as well known, there's a possibility of failure, so it's more impressive if we succeed. Unless he'd specifically set up a set of conditions to increase the impossibility of what he was doing, I don't think I'd have been that impressed either. I'd be waiting for some kind of kicker or twist ending.

Of course, there are a lot of other factors involved as well. Maybe the participant seemed a bit uncomfortable or unhappy, and that negativity could have subtly transmitted itself to the audience. Maybe Derren's timing was a bit off and he hadn't built up enough tension on the reveal or conveyed the effect with enough clarity. Or, it's always a possibility that he deliberately included a smaller, less immediately impressive piece as it fitted in better with the structure of the show, and gave him somewhere to build from and reset the audiences expectations so he could exceed them with what was to follow.

I haven't seen Infamous, so can I ask, did he get the participant to show the piece of paper with the predicted word on it, or did he just get her to confirm that it was correct verbally?

Luis Vega

Elite Member
Mar 19, 2008
Leon, Guanajuato Mexico
Well... I don?t know what to my theatre show I had a Confabulation routine... and when I did it.. it hit really hard... so far people keep asking me how did I saw the future... if you are familiar with this trick you know is almost like the one you describe...

It?s hard to say why it didn?t work the way he expected... but as you describe it, it sound really poor for being derren brown... I saw his other shows and the quick predictions always surprise me a lot... this one however sounds too simple for him... people are used to see him do amazing mentalism feats and a quick prediction like this is just not him...
Dec 18, 2007
Northampton, MA - USA
I'm betting that maybe he wanted it to fall a bit soft, Derren's been at it too long to have such a reaction that's not intentional.

Why would he do so?

To prove he's human, perhaps? That's why Kreskin has missed finding his pay check a few times, to prove that it's not a trick and that he's fallible . . . there is a strength to seeming failure.
I really don't know what to think. It was indeed a quick piece, but it didn't fail at all. He got it right. The reaction was not there at all, though... Maybe I'm missing something. Maybe it was a show for lay people and not for someone like me who isn't really new to mentalism effects (compared to the real deal, I'm nothing in mentalism, but still)
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