The Best Mentalism Tricks For Beginners

You’ve seen The Mentalist on TV, right? The lead character in the show uses a mixture of observation and people reading to make it seem like he can read people’s minds. These alleged talents are used to help the police solve crimes.

Clearly, this is a TV show, and people do not really pretend to be able to read minds to find criminals. But, they certainly use easy mentalism tricks to pretend to read people’s minds to entertain—and amaze audiences around the world.

Since British mentalist Derren Brown burst onto the scene, mentalism has become more and more popular. Magicians are realizing the impact mentalism has on an audience. It is hard-hitting and tugs at people’s emotions much more than an easy card trick or easy close-up magic tricks .

Derren pioneered pretending to use body language and NLP as his “excuse” for mind reading. This is the real secret here. The most important point in this whole article. You need to find your reason for what you are doing. Why can you read someone’s mind? How are you doing it? Is it a state of heightened observation? Is it like “spidey sense”? Did you have an accident and hit your head and come round with some new found abilities? You need to find your “origin story”. And it is much better if you can think of something original rather than using Derren Brown’s ideas. That being said, you came here because you wanted to learn some mentalism tricks, right? OK then. Let’s get into that.

But before we do, we have to point out something seemingly obvious. The methods, or secrets, behind a great deal of mentalism are very, very easy. Childishly easy. They may seem far too obvious or simple at first glance. But the real key to mentalism is your ability to act. Your skill in presenting your mind reading act as entertaining is what you need to work on with this branch of magic. With card magic, you need to practise and practise your sleight of hand for years sometimes before you can pull of a magic trick effectively. But with mind reading, you often don’t really have a ‘move’ to practise. Sometimes there are no ‘moves’ at all. Some mind reading tricks are really easy! It’s all in the performance and acting.

That being said, let’s dive in.

geometric shapes

The Shape Of You

Find your willing volunteer and instruct them to think hard about a simple geometric shape in their mind. Something simple, like a square. But not a square, as you just said that. Now get them to draw another simple shape around the first one.

Have you done that as you read this? If you have, you’re probably thinking of a triangle inside a circle! Did we get it right?

This works because there are only a few “simple” geometric shapes. Triangle is the most popular, so most people will say that first. Then you ask them to draw a different shape “around” the first one. The use of the word “around” is important here because it will subliminally suggest a circle - because a circle is round, right?

You can either have already drawn out your prediction and have it on the table before you start demonstrating how you have controlled your spectator. Alternatively, you can pretend to read their mind, asking them to concentrate on the shapes and then make your drawing.

See, we told you this was easy. But do not be put off by the simplicity of the method here. It really is a stunning trick and is the basis of several routines professional mentalists perform around the world every day!

Image of the number five

Five Alive!

Get your spectator to think of any number. Tell them to add the following number to the first number. So if they thought of eight, they have to add eight and nine together (17). Then add nine (26). Now they need to divide the total by two (13) and finally get them to subtract their original number (5). The total they have will always be five. Always. The challenge here is to make this entertaining. How could you do that? Have a think about it. Maybe it is something to do with counting candy in a jar, and how you could always win those games at fairs. Before you start the trick, you could get a small jar and put five pieces of candy in it, and have that under a cloth. You could talk about how numbers confused you as a child because you thought they were all the same because no matter what you did, you’d always end up back at five. What could you do?

fortune teller

Barnum Bunkum

The first two mind reading tricks here are really easy, and what we’re going to share with you now is Next Level. This really shouldn’t be in an article about the best mentalism tricks for beginners, but we think you deserve to learn about it. This is the most powerful method for convincing people you can ‘read’ them. And the best bit is it is super easy to do.

Researchers have discovered that people will give much more weight to descriptions of their personality if they are supposedly tailor-made for them. This technique is called “The Barnum Effect” and it was coined by psychologist Paul Meehl in 1956. You can say very wide-reaching statements about someone, and they will believe them to be true if you say that you’ve created the reading just for them. This is a technique psychics, fortune tellers, astrologists and faith healers use day in and day out.

In an experiment in 1948, a personality test was given to 39 psychology students who were told they’d be given personalized results based on their answers. However, they were all given exactly the same series of statements:

  • You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
  • You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
  • You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
  • While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
  • Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you.
  • Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
  • At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
  • You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
  • You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.
  • You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
  • At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
  • Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
  • Security is one of your major goals in life.

Students gave the statements an accuracy rating of 4.3 out of 5!

You could turn these statements into a script to use like this (created by Snyder and Shenkel in 1975):

Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and resented. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do nor accept others' opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you.

This is because they believed the results were written just for them and they all had different results.

These statements are generally true for most people. So if you pretend to read someone’s palm, or aura, or whatever you want, and toss in some of those statements, people will believe you can truly dive into their inner psyche.

Here is another example of a “stock spiel” you can give to everyone you ever meet. If you pretend it is something you have created just for them, based on the exact time of their birth - for example - they are likely to give it a very high accuracy rating. This text was created bu Sundberg in 1955:

"You are a person who is very normal in his attitudes, behavior and relationships with people. You get along well without effort. People naturally like you, and you are not overly critical of them or yourself. You are neither overly conventional nor overly individualistic. Your prevailing mood is one of optimism and constructive effort, and you are not troubled by periods of depression, psychosomatic illness or nervous symptoms."

He found that the following got better results from females:

"You appear to be a cheerful, well-balanced person. You may have some alternation of happy and unhappy moods, but they are not extreme now. You have few or no problems with your health. You are sociable and mix well with others. You are adaptable to social situations. You tend to be adventurous. Your interests are wide. You are fairly self-confident and usually think clearly."

Despite being written decades ago, these example statements will still work today. Although this is an article for mentalism tricks for beginners, the power in The Barnum Effect will make it seem you really can read people with absolutely no skill at all. Just learn those spiels and people will be convinced of your ability.