Mentalism Techniques

Have you watched The Mentalist? If you are into magic shows, magic, and mentalism, The Mentalist could easily be one of the most popular magic TV shows.

But if you don’t spend much time watching TV, here’s the inside scoop.

The Mentalist is this TV show whose main character uses sharp, intelligent, and highly powerful observations, topped with the most effective sleight of the hand techniques and showmanship to somehow, ‘Read the Reader’s/ Audience’s Mind.’

The Mentalist then uses his special skills to help the police department in solving crimes.

Of course, this is a TV show.

However, the truth is that mentalists are real; they exist in the real world, and mentalism is an actual area of psychology that allows you to read other people’s minds, play mental tricks, and even detect people’s true intentions.

Also, anyone can be a mentalist. That is if you’re interested. But why bother with studying mentalism and the different mentalism techniques?

  • Well, while you may not end up as a liaison with the police department, there are different other ways that mentalism could be great for you. They include:
  • Strengthening your memory from the heightened power of observation learned
  • You can read people’s body language for information about their hidden feelings.
  • It’s the best way to entertain people; your skills could be what you need to allow your guests to have a good time.

Besides the influence of mentalism on you and others, the skills and expertise gained from mentalism could be exactly what you need to be a better version of yourself.

Cold reading body language and understanding people’s emotions and responses will ensure that you can relate to people differently. You also gain empathy from understanding other people.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the best mentalism techniques that would make you a great mentalist. But before we go down that road, let’s take a walkthrough of mentalism and the types of mentalism.

About Mentalism, What Is It?

Mind reading and magic tricks hold the most astonishing effects on different people. The performers of magic and illusionists often seem to hold some level of control over the minds and the bodies of their audience.

The thing you might not know, however, is that mentalism is a branch of mental psychology.

Mentalism was pioneered in the world of psychology by Rene Descartes, Immanuel Kant, and Baruch Spinoza. According to these three, mentalism aims to reach into the core of human patterns in relation to thoughts and clarity of thoughts.

Mentalism focuses on mental awareness, as well as cognition, along with mental symbolism. Mentalism is also the branch of psychology dealing with tricks and illusions.

For one to be the best mentalist, you have to master the skill and then use your magic powers to affect the way people think.

The so-called powers also allow you to control how your subjects think and how they provide answers to specific questions asked. In the mentalism world, this is called choice blindness.

Through Choice Blindness, it appears as if the mentalist plants ideas into the subconscious of their audience without the audience/ subjects knowing what’s happening.

The other mentalism technique which will be explained below involves the combination of body language analysis, along with the implementation of clever questioning to extract information from the person you are questioning.

By studying the subject’s body language and asking clever questions, it would appear as if the mentalist is psychic.

How do mentalists get to pull all these off?

Well, the mastery of mentalism involves a deep focus on mental perceptions, as well as thought processes. However, the underlying power in mentalism lies in the ability of a mentalist to tap into their subjects’ subconscious.

 Types of mentalism

While there are several people who associate mentalism with stage and psychological sorcery, an in-depth analysis of mentalism shows that this is an important branch of psychology that’s focused on the power of the mind.

That said, here are the five main types of mentalism

  • Telepathy – Also called mind reading, telepathy represents the transfer of information on thoughts between two people in ways other than the common/ classical senses.
  • Psychokinesis – its direct interpretation suggests a movement from your mind. Unfortunately, it’s unclear whether psychokinesis works or not.
  • Extra-Sensory Perception – This represents the clear ability to obtain information without prior knowledge of the situation, previous experience, or physical senses.
  • Precognition – This area of mentalism allows you to gain information about a person, object, location, and event, using other elements, besides the human senses.
  • Clairvoyance – this works like extra-sensory perception.

In psychology, mentalism incorporates techniques such as neurolinguistic programming, better known as NLP to read body language, as well as non-verbal communication and mind reading, among other techniques.

Like NLP, mentalism employs the power of embedded suggestion, another powerful technique which you could use to tap into the power of the mind when it comes to manipulation.

Manipulation, thanks to mentalism, works in a way that allows the mentalist to plant an idea in their subject’s mind, making the subject in question think that the mentalist’s idea is their own.

Mentalism Techniques

1. Mind Control/ Mind Reading

Mind control, also called though reform, manipulation, brainwashing, coercive persuasion, mental control, or coercive control, refers to a mentalism technique that covers different elements of persuasion and influence to change people’s beliefs, as well as behaviors.

Mind control is the biggest and most important mentalism technique. It’s through the perceived ability to control another’s mind that you are able to pull off some of the tricks and illusions.

Mind control works a lot like the system of influences on the mind that can disrupt an individual’s thinking, at their core, identity, values, preferences, beliefs, decisions, relationships, and behaviors.

These disruptions end up creating pseudopersonalities and pseudoidentities.

According to psychologist Philip Zimbardo, mind control is the process through which collective and individual freedom of action and choice get compromised through agents and even agencies, which result in the modification and the distortion of your perception, affect, motivation, cognition, as well as behavioral outcomes.

That said, it’s important to keep in mind that mind reading tricks are only successful if you know to read micro-expressions, but your abilities are enhanced if you are good at telepathy.

2. Hypnosis

One of the most common and the biggest technique applied in mind control is hypnosis.

Whether you are a mentalist or a stage hypnotist, you can use hypnotic techniques to control your subjects and even have them do strange things, not to mention having your audience pull off funny stunts.

So, how do mentalism and mind control work, exactly?

While mentalism and mind control seem to focus more on the belief of planting an idea in someone else’s mind, you can only get the relationship between these two aspects if you understand how the human brain/ mind works.

Your mind is available on two sides – the conscious and the subconscious mind. If you think of your mind as an iceberg, the conscious mind is the visible part of the iceberg above the water level, while the subconscious mind is the hidden part of the iceberg.

The hidden, submerged part of the iceberg is the biggest part of any iceberg. Your subconscious is just that big.

The actions of your conscious mind are directed by the activities in your subconscious mind, the same way that the movement of an iceberg is directed by what happens underwater and around the submerged iceberg.

Therefore, if you are to control how someone thinks or acts, you have to work on controlling their subconscious. In mentalism, mentalists use special techniques to reach and control the subconscious through mind control techniques like hypnosis.

The conscious mind and Mentalism

To understand how the conscious mind works and how it’s used in mentalism, it’s important to note that your conscious mind has four primary functions – temporary memory, will power, analytical thought process, and lastly, rational thinking.

Under rational thinking, your conscious mind is the reason why you think and decide to either do something or not. Your rational mind/ thinking refers to how your brain allows you to justify your actions, as well as your beliefs.

You also decide what to or not, based on your rational mind. Which means, in a nutshell, that your conscious mind’s primary language is logic. The conscious mind represents the critical factor, and it’s also called the critical faculty.

In case you are wondering what the critical faculty has to do with anything – well, critical faculty is the facet of your mind that guards the subconscious.

It filters the information that goes through to the subconscious, but this doesn’t mean that this critical faculty cannot be bypassed. Hypnosis and mentalism are two techniques that can bypass the critical faculty easily.

The Nitty-Gritty of Hypnosis

Hypnosis gives way to mind control through the relaxation of the mind. In its relaxed state, the conscious mind’s critical faculty/factor’s guard is literally down. When this happens, you can speak to the subconscious mind effortlessly.

The most interesting bit, however, is that you don’t have to be hypnotized for you to be in a hypnotic state, and the mentalists know this and use it to control your subconscious.

The Power of Suggestion

The reason why a subject doesn’t have to be hypnotized to be in the hypnotic state has to do with the subconscious mind being influenced by suggestion.

Why? Perhaps the reason why the faculty factor guards the subconscious mind is that this part of the brain is, for the most part, the area of the mind that determines who you are.

The subconscious is the real you.

This is where you will find your habits.

Your subconscious also controls your behaviors. Whether you are religious or not, your political aspirations and societal beliefs are all centered in your subconscious. Besides all these other elements, your subconscious is home to your emotions, as well as a permanent memory.

The subconscious is the center of your past smells, feelings, sounds, and sights. So, while you may not recall some things from your past now, they are stored in there, somewhere.

The power of imagination

To reach your subconscious mind, you need to use your imagination. Just allow your mind to imagine a situation, and the portal to the subconscious opens. Mentalists and illusionists use the power of imagination to convince their subjects, and they do so, albeit easily (and beautifully).

The subconscious mind will always be open to suggestions in the form of sounds, images, or sights. If your conscious and the subconscious minds are in conflict, the subconscious will always win.

The interesting bit, however, is that the subconscious mind is unable to differentiate between that which is real and that which is true, and even what’s unreal.

With these vulnerabilities, a good mentalist can easily ‘trick’ the subconscious into believing a thought or even image, even when it’s not true or real.

Like in the movies, our imaginations, through the subconscious mind, control our beliefs about the scenes in the movie. A movie hypnotizes you. Think of how a sad movie makes you cry, and a horror movie scares you.

In mentalism, the critical faculty is down/ by-passed, meaning that the mentalist is in direct communication with the subconscious mind and capable of planting suggestions in the subconscious.

Note that instead of mind manipulation, mentalism involves the use of deception methods that work a lot like magic tricks, to fool the audience.

Cold Reading

Cold reading is one of the oldest techniques in the mentalism business. Cold reading is used by mediums, mentalists, magicians, illusionists, fortune tellers, and psychics. These guys have been using these techniques for decades.

This technique allows you to obtain large amounts of information from a person just by watching and analyzing their body language, gender, age, and fashion style. It involves reading people in a crowd or room.

The interesting bit about cold reading is that you cannot successfully read body language without the consent of your subject. So, before you start reading someone’s body language, you will have to ask the subject for their permission.

Once the permission is granted, you can ask leading but somewhat very vague questions, and depending on the other person’s responses and by analyzing body language, you can make educated guesses, and the answers will be very close to the truth.

The most effective cold reading techniques

Selecting Your Subjects

You need to look for an open-minded and willing subject for your success in cold reading. As you try to search for the right subject for cold reading, you must avoid all skeptics in the crowd.

Profile Your Subjects

After choosing your subject, you should take time to profile them, right from the get-go, Evaluate your subject’s visual cues, with everything from the clothes they are wearing to how they sit.

If you are as good at cold reading as you think you are, then you must be able to scan your subject to make sure that your guesses are as close to the truth as possible. You should also watch your audience’s or subject’s body language, facial expressions, as well as their posture.

Fishing for Clues

Now, if cold reading is going to work, you must be good at fishing for cues to collect the information you need to make the right guesses.

Whether you choose to use numbers or letters, you must have obtained information that would lead to that number or letter from reading the cues from your subjects. So, having the right cues, you will be regarded as a great mentalist.

Staging A Connection

Besides focusing on making the best, most accurate assumptions, you also need to focus on your ability to stage the existence of a strong connection between you and the psychic realm.

To stage the connection to the psychic realm, you have to try to act like you are ‘struggling’ to interpret or reach out to the psychic realm to develop a spiritual connection between here and there.

You also have to pretend that as though you are putting in so much effort to listen to the messages and the thoughts shared from the other side. If you are trying to convince your subjects that you are a real psychic, then this cold-reading technique will be an excellent trick for you.

Cold reading shares a lot in common with reading body language.

Use of Barnum Statements

This is one of the most effective methods of cold reading. This technique involves making general statements to your subjects and working from that space.

Using emotions, for example, is one of the best places for you to start.

The Shiner Technique

The other effective mentalism technique is the shiner technique.

In this technique, the mentalist places a shiny object on a desk/ table. A reflective tabletop could also be used — this technique banks on the fact that the audience is unaware of the existence or the shiny surface.

A mentalist will then go ahead and write down a word on a piece of paper and then ask the audience to place that paper upside down/ face down.

With some maneuvering, the mentalist looks for the reflections of the words on the paper. Obviously, the audience will be in awe of the mentalist’s ability to ‘read’ what’s on their mind.


Misdirection is one of the most powerful mentalism techniques used by top mentalists and illusionists. This technique involves deception of the mentalist’s mind in a way that allows you to control the ultimate outcome of an event, in the mentalist’s favor.

For misdirection to work, you have to understand and know how to take advantage of the limitations of the human mind. You have to find a way to deceive your audience so that they focus their attention on one thing and not on the real thing.

The situation/ distraction you are distracting your audience from is where the actual magic takes place. So, thanks to misdirection, your audience doesn’t see or even become aware of the deception taking place.

Sleight of hand and Shape Projection are two of the most common forms of misdirection, and they are common with top mentalists and magicians.

The limitation of the mind, and the reason why misdirection works lie in the fact that the brain only focuses on one thing at a time.

With this knowledge, mentalists are able to manipulate their audience’s sensory and perception input, hence the false confusion and magic.

Sleight of Hand

Sleight of Hand doesn’t immediately sound like one of the best mentalism tricks, but it actually is. In this technique, a mentalist is able to make objects move or disappear, thanks to one of the most effective mentalism methods called misdirection.

Misdirection works in the same way as mind reading by leveraging the power of suggestion and using the power of imagination and images to make the subconscious vulnerable and open to suggestions.

Shape Projection

Shape projection is one of the other common mentalism tricks/ techniques. Mentalists who use shape projection employ this technique as a mind misdirection technique.

Muscle Reading

Besides cold reading, muscle reading is the other technique used by mentalists. This technique was discovered in the 1800s by J. Randall Brown.

In this discovery, Randall Brown discovered this trick by finding hidden objects of his fellow students by having his fellow pupils touch their forehead while concentrating on the location of the hidden item.

This trick is somehow like mind reading, but as expected, there was a great amount of controversy about his findings/ beliefs.

And instead of mind reading, it was suggested that the ability to locate objects was based on Brown’s ability to pick up on tiny muscular movements and cues off his audience/ subjects.

Muscle reading, like cold reading and mind reading, requires a substantial amount of experience, as well as knowledge of human anatomy and the nervous system.

Watching Lips

Mentalists also use tricks when they are trying to find information out of their subjects.

For example, you could ask someone in the audience to think of a word, perhaps the name of a place or person, and then ask them to visualize and repeat that name in their minds over and over again as you observe their lips move.

Often, people will subconsciously mouth the words, and if you are great at reading lips, you should be able to say back the words. For this technique to work, you really need to pay attention to your subject and the movement of their lips.


To be a great mentalist, you must understand and know how to use these tricks.

These techniques require a lot of time analyzing how they work, the function of the brain, and how you can use the knowledge gained to master the techniques and to become the best mentalist.