A lot of people wonder what mentalists “work” and don’t get the answer directly from their literature, but these are not the kind of questions that can wait for a more sophisticated approach to psychology. There are a great many things that psychologists and neuroscientists have in common that we can learn from the mentalists: We are all experts at interpreting our perceptions and, as an extension of this, we can all understand other people’s mental representations. One person may have an idea, while at another may have an argument about it. And if the idea and the argument are different, we can use our own experience to “see” that the person with the idea has it.
Now, there is a common misconception that the mentalist does not see things in color and not in sound, but that is not at all the case. In fact, there is an idea of a visual representation that is very common among mentalists. Let me give you a brief example of that. A very common one among mentalists is the so-called “visualized mental picture” idea. They imagine a scene in which a person or some other entity is standing somewhere, looking at some object in front of him. They imagine that these other people, who are standing around him at the same time, have no memory of what a particular object is. But after seeing and hearing this visualized mental picture for the first time, that person can immediately sense the reality behind it. He knows that this is what looks like. However, to his knowledge the person has never heard this visualized mental picture. So, in the above case, the person’s perception of the real object is the result of our experience and he can tell from having seen it, because he remembers having heard it, that a person is looking at this object. In other words, the visualized mental picture concept gives rise to both a sense of presence and a very strong intuition about the reality behind a visualized mental picture. To illustrate, imagine yourself in a crowded subway station. You are just about to hop on the next train when you hear the conversation of your neighbor. There are other people on the train, and you can hear them talking to one another. How do you know that you have not already heard the other person? It depends on your perception: you could hear something, or you could have already noticed something else that it is. This concept also gives rise to two different kinds of mental images — which are both different from the visualized mental picture concept. The first
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