• NLP & The Trouble with Derren Brown


    Derren Brown is a skeptic; a friend of science and reason. As well as being a wonderful showman with a unique style, he is yet another magician to debunk the practices of psychics, such as ‘speaking to the dead’ using techniques like cold reading. However, I have a problem with one aspect of his performances, and that’s his apparent connection to the pseudo-scientific practice of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP.

    First, a bit about my own experience with NLP.


    NLP and Sales Techniques

    While I was a student in London I worked part-time for a major UK mobile phone network, selling mobile phone contracts in a shop. The job was quite fun at first, and the commission meant that I did pretty well financially (for a student at least). However, new bosses came in, bringing with them great ideas for how to move forward. The idea deemed most crucial to the corporation’s progression was taught to us on a special training week. Rather than learning about the products we sold, we were taught the art of selling in general. One such way is to insert words like “by now…” to make them want to ‘buy now’. Another is to get them in ‘yes mode’ by asking them questions they are likely to say “yes” to. You can find out what sort of person they are. Are they a ‘left brain’ person (meaning they value logic and reason over emotion) or are they ‘right brained’ (more feeling, emotional). If they look in a certain direction when they’re thinking, that can tell you that they’re ‘visual’, or ‘kinaesthetic’ and so on. Make sure you let kinaesthetic people touch the phone you’re trying to sell them!

    Ok, it’s complete bollocks, and being the argumentative type (left brained, of course!) I tried to dispute what they were preaching to us. I was on my own – everyone else seemed to buy it (probably because they inserted “by now”…) They weren’t having any of it, and when I got back to work we were told that if we didn’t integrate NLP into our sales procedures, we’d get into trouble and they’d dock our commission (they tested us with ‘mystery shopping’).

    Why this biographical stuff important? Well, at a conference where they were celebrating the ‘success’ of the new NLP-inspired techniques (they also lowered the prices considerably, which I feel might have had an effect), they played us a video:

    [Alternative for readers in the UK]

    Just look at the power of NLP, we were told! You can get someone to want something they don’t really want, simply by using certain words and phrases.

    Skip forward a few years and I’m in York, still studying, and still working in a shop; only this time I’m working in a major UK camera retailer. New bosses have just come in, and we’re sent to train our sales techniques (this is sounding rather familiar). We are played the very same video – Derren Brown ‘causing’ Simon Pegg to want a red BMX. This makes me wonder how many other companies are training their sales staff to use NLP on customers, and using this video as evidence to support their claims. Surely I can’t have coincidentally chosen to work for the only two that did.


    emBedded coMmands? not eXactly

    If you haven’t watched the video, then let me briefly sum it up. Pegg has a written note in his pocket describing a present he really wants. Brown then grabs his arm and starts speaking to him, inserting words like “car like a BM or an X-box” and “…to handle bar none…”. Wheel/bike-shaped objects are around the room and on the wall. Pegg is then asked what present he wants, to which he answers “a red BMX”. To his surprise, Brown produces one, but in a final twist, reveals that Pegg’s written note says (in Pegg’s handwriting) ‘leather jacket’. Brown then apparently reveals how the trick was done – the spiel near the start caused Pegg to forget about the jacket and desire the red BMX in its place.

    I don’t believe that explanation. I think it’s as weak as the explanation he gave for his lottery prediction trick. Perhaps you think I’m stating the obvious, but I find that most people I talk to about it believe Brown’s explanation, including skeptics and scientists. “It’s just suggestion!” they tell me, as if I’m stupidly just not ‘getting it’. So I’m going to try to debunk the trick, and while I can’t offer the correct solution, I can hopefully convince people that Brown didn’t do it the way he said he did.

    So what do I believe happened? I think that Pegg wanted the red BMX all along, and Brown somehow obtained this information well before the show – enough time to get a red BMX ready to reveal during the trick. The NLP-spiel is just an extravagant misdirection. The real trick was getting Pegg to find a note in his own handwriting with ‘leather jacket’ written on. Here are my reasons for thinking this:

    1) Pegg seems to have no recollection of ever wanting a leather jacket. Not only does he now want a red BMX, Brown’s NLP has deleted both Pegg’s desire for a leather jacket and his memory of such a desire. But Brown’s influence was apparently only supposed to make Pegg desire a bike, not to stop him desiring a jacket and forget that he ever wanted one! In fact, Pegg can’t think of any reason why he might want a leather jacket. That’s a little strange, if he really did want one before. What I’d expect, if Brown really did implant the desire for a BMX in his mind, is that Pegg would respond with something like “Oh! Yes! A leather jacket is what I want. What did I say? Red BMX? Not sure why I’d think that…”

    2) Leather jackets are a rather boring gift for a fun fellow like Simon Pegg to ask for on a TV show. A red BMX is exactly the sort of thing he’d want – something he probably wouldn’t buy himself (in contrast to the jacket) but the sort of present perfect to ask for on TV, especially if it satisfies a ‘childhood dream’ of his.

    3) Even if we grant that NLP works (which I’m not willing to do), surely it doesn’t work that well. It might suggest the idea of a BMX to Pegg, but surely not make him want one. Why is it that only Brown and other ‘mentalist’ magicians can do this kind of thing? Where are the ‘serious’ (i.e. non-performing) NLP experts, demonstrating that NLP is capable of this sort of psychological alteration?

    4) If that’s how he did it, then Brown revealed how the trick was done. I’m not a magician, but I’m pretty sure that’s a bit of a no-no – and Brown is a trained magician. Why would he do that, rather than leave us guessing? It seems much more plausible to me that Brown was sticking to the ‘code’, and merely pretending to reveal how he did the trick, as a form of misdirection. Brown has a history of telling us falsehoods about how the tricks are done (see the lottery ‘prediction’, above). Why should this one be different?

    5) Getting Pegg to pull out a note with ‘leather jacket’ in his own handwriting when he in fact wrote something completely different is hardly the most ground-breaking feat in the history of magic. I can’t tell you how Brown and his team might have pulled it off, since the best magic trick I can do involves putting a card back in the pack the wrong way up. Nevertheless, I doubt we’d postulate ‘real magic’ to explain something like that performed by another magician, so why are we more credulous when it comes to Brown?

    So those are my reasons. I’ll update the post with more if I think of any, but please let me know if you disagree or have anything else to add. I could be wrong, but the possible world in which I’m wrong includes humans with the ability to say a few ‘magic’ words and make someone both forget what they want, and want something completely different. That”s implausible, at least to me.


    Another Uri?

    I feel a bit bad asking this, since I like Derren Brown. But is there a touch of the ‘Uri Geller’ about him? One difference is obvious; Brown is an outspoken skeptic, and doesn’t really push the idea that he’s using NLP, except as part of the performance. Geller is adamant that he bends spoons solely with the power his mind. Still, it strikes me that since people genuinely are misled, then Brown has been rather careless, and is inadvertently lending support to pseudo-science. I don’t recall seeing Brown explicitly say that his apparent use of NLP is a ruse.

    Having said that, I do see the other side. Brown’s performance is an ingenious piece of misdirection. While everyone is concentrating on his hypnotic techniques, the trick is already done, via some very simple and traditional method. To people who don’t buy his NLP stuff, the trick breathes new life into the ordinary magic show. However to people who do think he’s an NLP master, they end up believing weird things; if only they were as good at NLP as Brown, then they could heavily influence the minds of others.

    It seems to me then that there’s a middle ground, but it’s difficult to know where to draw the line. If Brown says ‘by the way, I didn’t really use NLP’ then that will help stop those who’d use his performances as evidence that NLP is really powerful, but ruin the techniques of misdirection in his shows. However, if he carries on, his shows have the same force, but people like my retail bosses will keep using Brown as proof that their training methods are on the right track.

    So I propose this: Brown carries on doing his shows in the way he does them already. They’re good shows. However, to counter the misguided notion that he’s demonstrating the power of NLP, he explicitly states somewhere that all of the NLP in his shows is misdirection, so that skeptical people can dig it out whenever we encounter someone who wants to use Derren Brown as proof that NLP is magic.



    Someone helpfully pointed out this post by Brown:

    3. I have never claimed to use NLP to achieve my ‘tricks’. On the contrary, I have written very critically about it in Tricks of the Mind. I reserve the same scepticism for subliminal messaging, as well as a lot of body-language reading and the like.

    This is good to see, but has two problems. Firstly, I think it’s not entirely true. In the BMX trick he strongly suggests that NLP is how he did the trick. Perhaps he doesn’t explicitly claim that, in the way that Geller claims to bend spoons with his mind. Nevertheless, that’s what almost everybody will take away from that performance, and I think Brown’s responsible for that. Secondly, he isn’t saying here that he’s not using NLP. So the NLPer won’t see this (if they see it at all) as an obstacle to using Brown as evidence of NLP’s efficacy.

    People do still believe it. Right now, the two top comments on the YouTube video of the BMX trick are claiming that Brown is using NLP. So there’s still a problem.

    I stress again – Brown is a friend of skepticism, and I’m a fan of his. I just think that there’s a niggling problem with some of his methods.

    Category: Skepticism

    Article by: Notung

    I started as a music student, studying at university and music college, and playing trombone for various orchestras. While at music college, I became interested in philosophy, and eventually went on to complete an MA in Philosophy in 2012. An atheist for as long as I could think for myself, a skeptic, and a political lefty, my main philosophical interests include epistemology, ethics, logic and the philosophy of religion. The purpose of Notung (named after the name of the sword in Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen) is to concentrate on these issues, examining them as critically as possible.

    2 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

    • Here’s a discussion thread with some interesting points on this trick. Quite a few people make the point – as you do – that the NLP stuff isn’t in any way related to how the trick, but is simply another aspect of the show. Dressing sleight-of-hand up as mind control, as it were. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=501118

    • HI guys, I had alook at the video; big business use this con in various forms to buy stuff, the sad thing is that this action inserts a variable amount of PTSD into the thought time line of the victim, whose brain has to carry this rubbish as PTSD and cant understand it and is conditioned for the next sale or whatever con act is being used.

    • Devilindisguise

      Derren Brown is worse then all the psychics in the world: He for 1 uses-actors in ALL-HIS- TV-Shows, 2 He uses Covert-Hypnosis & NLP to influence people uncocniously (which is actually TRULY a Horrible thing to do & he just denies this firmly, sure why not?); 3 He is a big fat liar and has His-Team (Marketing-Adults, using False accounts on Twitter) send out to reel-in-Teenagers (as young as 15 years! so these kids activate their friends and their friends) over Twitter with massive-sexual-innuendo and more— NLP-to-the-MAX (disgusting!, I mean, what kids feels naturally atracted to a bald 42 year old??? watch out parents if your teenage kid becomes overly derren-addict just watch who they´re talking to online and don´t doubt your gut feelings about this). Horrendous Marketing Abusing Bunch!

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      Thanks for this post, Notung!

      Thanks, too, to Jacques for the additional link. “Ianzin”‘s response to the original post by “Dex sinister” is excellent.

    • Thanks for that. Also, there’s a JREF thread: http://forums.randi.org/archive/index.php/t-37851.html

    • Thanks for this. Also, there’s a JREF thread about it: http://forums.randi.org/archive/index.php/t-37851.html

    • How do we know he uses stooges? I admit that I can’t see how some of the tricks could be done without stooges, but there could be a way. Magicians are clever people! I actually don’t mind him ‘lying’. That’s sort of what magicians do anyway. I just worry that it could be presented in such a way as to actually make people think he’s doing what he’s saying he’s doing. You don’t get that with Paul Daniels or David Copperfield, etc.

      I don’t see that the teenager thing is called for, either. Are you suggesting he’s a paedophile?!

    • I’m not sure what you mean, but I think I disagree. I don’t see this as psychological – just a regular magic trick with ‘pseudo-psychological gloss’.

    • Yep – well worth a look!

    • rg57

      It would be interesting if Brown would perform one of his NLP acts for Penn and Teller, and see what they say. As to hypnosis, I believe their position is that it’s bulls–t.

    • Devilindisguise

      Very regrettable ex-marketing Team-Member who carefully got chucked out because didn´t agree at all with dreadful tactics being used- Inside info!

    • Yes – in fact Penn and Teller did a show called ‘Fool Us’ in the UK. They had a guy doing basically the same trick as Brown, using ‘NLP’. P&T called BS right away, and the performer nodded. I bring that up whenever I’m arguing with someone about Derren Brown!

    • Obie

      Technically, this kind of “sales NLP” is nothing more than a watered-down collection of psycholingustic principles and imagination manipulation techniques applied in such a way to create an “emotional hijacking” of the subjects (read: victims) mental state, thus making the individual who’s being NLPeed do whatever is being suggested by the operator…

      There’s absolutely no way that Derren Brown is doing this in that video, and I seriously doubt that the sales world has the collective intelligence to perform this feat consistantly.

      Now, if Mr. Brown hypnotised the poor buggers off camera (easy feat with a highly suggestible actor) and implanted a post-hypnotic suggestion to make him want that BMX on cue… different story, and much more likely given his “hypnotherapy” background.

      [note: hypnosis is actually a real neurological phenomena, in a manner of speaking… Tom Silver’s “Scientific Hypnosis” material is the best overview I’ve seen; but most, and by that I mean almost all “hypnosis/hypnotherapy” loose in the world is complete magical thinking nonsense!]

    • JG29A

      Brown’s performance is an ingenious piece of misdirection. While everyone is concentrating on his hypnotic techniques, the trick is already done, via some very simple and traditional method.

      This doesn’t strike me as “ingenious”, but rather one of the two most important principles in designing a good magic trick, which all magicians nearly always use: make the audience search for trickery in places where there’s nothing to be found. (The other principle is to make the mechanism of the trick so ugly that even if anyone came up with the solution, there would be no “aha” reaction and thus no spreading of the solution meme.)

    • I say ‘ingenious’ because all magic tricks are ingenious to me! 😉

    • But isn’t it much easier to switch the note and pretend to hypnotise him? JG29A’s comment on this post is helpful here:

      The other principle is to make the mechanism of the trick so ugly that even if anyone came up with the solution, there would be no “aha” reaction and thus no spreading of the solution meme.

      So the switching of the note is so mundane that nobody would suspect it, and Brown can pretend that he’s playing with Pegg’s mind.

    • Pingback: Derren Brown is a genius - Page 3 - Parapsychology and alternative medicine forums of mind-energy.net()

    • Kortechs

      This is a spot on analysis imo. I’ve been taking the “traditional magician guised as hypnotist/NLPer” approach to Mr. Brown’s work since I started watching his programs with a more critical eye. One thing I am quite sure of is that he lies. A lot. Which is nothing new, and nothing that I consider wrong in this context. He’s in the business of lying, in order to entertain. A magician who tells the truth wouldn’t be much of a magician. But, whereas most magicians lie by misdirecting or omitting truths, he really takes a direct approach.

      The real “brilliance” (and i do think its quite clever, despite my use of airquotes) of Deren Brown’s methodology lies in his approach to misdirection; instead of the traditional “pay attention to my hands”, he is using the “pay attention to my linguistics and “hypnosis”. Since this is something that magicians have rarely done before, the public is easily fooled. To compound the effect, he likes to do this thing where he kind of lets the viewer in on some of his methods. The viewer feels special, feels smart, and doesn’t think for a second that this moment of sharing is the biggest lie of all.

      This of course does not explain away all of his tricks (and i believe that they are all in fact “merely” tricks), but certainly in the case of the BMX I think its quite clear that your analysis is correct. A simple replacement trick guised as NLP/hypnosis/whatever.

      I’m also quite convinced that he does in fact use a multitude of “stooges”. Tbh I think most if not all of the people in his “Seance” program were actors. When they’re first introduced, you see them all standing around in small groups, conversing with each other. It didn’t ring true. A group of strangers gathered together rarely look so socially well-adjusted. There’s always a couple loners standing uncomfortably to the side, not interacting, for instance.
      But when the group is introduced in the program, they are all quite engaged with one another, and I am reminded of actors in the background crowd of a theatre performance, all mouthing nonsense words to create the illusion of a social unit. There are plenty of other examples of the individuals not “ringing true” as well throughout the program, as well as in other programs.

      this still doesn’t explain why I wrote “Lisbon” during the tv audience portion of the show, when Brown had the viewers write down the name of a city. I was originally going to write “Pittsburgh” just to be a dick, but at the last second I sort of emptied my mind, and wrote “Lisbon”, a city that I haven’t seen mentioned or thought of in years. The girl in the show wrote “London”. Its quite close to Lisbon. Ive seen forum posters say that they wrote everything from London to Leicester to Lisbon. To me, it felt like more than a coincidence. Subliminal messages? I can’t think of another explanation.

      The bottom line though, is that Brown has gained notoriety chiefly for TELEVISION performances. This means that there is a host of behind the scenes manipulating that can easily go on, and makes it almost impossible to deduce what the precise nature of this manipulation is.

      sorry for the wall of text.
      tl:dr, I agree with the article.

    • Hogehoed

      Dear Notung,

      I think your explanation of the BMX-trick is basically right. Today I watched it for the so many’th time, and finally I noticed something that gave it away: Simon initially says, “that isn’t my handwriting as well.” Indeed, the real trick here is letting Simon believe, for a brief moment, that he really wrote ‘leather jacket’.

      Pegg is probably chosen because Derren already knew him and knew that (i) he is quite susceptible to Derren suggesting that he did not wrote Red BMX (which he of course did write down) and (ii) when Pegg later realized, as he no doubt did, how the trick worked, he would not run to the media with it. I guess that Derren, being a friend of Simon, had a chance to study Simon’s handwriting and mimic it, so that he could convince Simon, in the time between the presentation of the gift and the ‘after-interview’, that it was ‘definitely his writing’ (“look at the ‘J’! It’s surely yours!”)

      I think Derren had more than “enough time to get a red BMX ready to reveal during the trick” because I think the whole studio and Derren’s monologue are specifically tailored with Simon’s request in mind. The trick is (i) obtaining this information and designing the whole studio timely, and (ii) switching the envelop (which is of course not very revolutionary).

      However, the brilliance of this whole scheme lies in the NLP-smoke and mirrors.

    • Doesn’t he say “that’s my handwriting as well”? It’s hard to tell, but it sounds like it, and the subsequent conversation suggests that’s what he said.

    • Mike Kaye

      I saw the red BMX thing on Hulu. I then decided to watch no more Darren Brown.

    • temp

      He says all the time he uses lies tricks and deception to create an illusion. He is a fantastically gifted magician. He rely got me to want to learn how he does these tricks. I can workout most magic tricks, but his are hard. the BMX trick jsut involved a bit of information and switching the card in Simon Peggs pocket.
      The irony is that people take his show so literally, TO MAKE MONEY FROM IT. In bogus training scams.
      for NLP I really want to know so much more about it. some people do
      random stuff and use the name NLP, but NLP as Ritchard Bandlar created
      it… I still haven’t seen enough evedence for or against it. I have
      seen evidence that puts a good argument for it, but I don’t want to
      influence anyone.
      One thing though, I went to an Amway meeting and I
      still am amazed at how people went craz about their hugely overpriced
      products. That to me was evidence to support a hypothesis in favor of
      brainwashing. there is some psychology to be studded there.
      Bandlers first book “the structure of magic” was a life changer for me, I
      think it was probably the placebo effect. I could use the ideas to give
      me hope. like people use religion.
      I have had pushy sales people try
      to use NLP and push me into signing. I never but from a pushy sales
      person!!! sometimes the pressure and the excitement convince you to sign.
      But is people use Daren Brown ans an example to sell training courses. That is just Bullshit

    • Brown is a showman using what he thinks is science. Cold reading and psychics? lol Cold reading was known of and explained far better than he has done 150 years ago. He’s just rehashing it for the young.

    • Glenn Beustring

      Bravo, I must say you’ve done an excellent job. You can figure people out. You’ve proven to many, your NLP trainers were complete bullock. You may be good at misdirection yourself. Within your training you focus deeply into the screen. While you’re here you discover something about misdirection. Let’s pull yourself out and back to the week long training now and ask yourself, “who has been misdirected?”. Would it be Pegg within the video or the quality of the trainers in a week’s time? Who is trying to prove the wrong person right now? Forget what they want and want something completely different. Who are you believing you don’t need to? Continue on and know what You Really Want To Know? You Are Already Using NLP. You began this article using embedded commands within “quotes” of what your trainers “said”. In general, you use artfully vague language in the story of your experience with NLP. NLP Practitioners utilize the “context”. You hypnotically utilize a blog of skepticism, misdirecting them away from your precise use of the techniques at your unconscious level. By now you all may be learning something new about how you agree, are you not?

    • wojoman2

      Funny how people that know nothing of the subject or how it works can try to give an expert opinion of it. You know nothing of rocket science but I’ll bet you believe that it works the way they say it does……. funny how that works.

    • James Cook

      You begin stating that you enjoy Derren Brown as a performer and his discipline to skepticism and the scientific method; yet, based on your personal experience, write off NLP as “bollocks.”

      I admit that there is quite a bit attributed to NLP that has been unfounded, there has been credence given to the techniques especially where elimination of phobias is concerned.

      If you are truly committed to the scientific method, and truth – as any good skeptic is – it is hardly scientific to write off something based on a one-time personal experience. If a quack who barely passed his medical exams came in and botched a routine procedure, the patient could conclude, “I suspected that cardiology was far-fetched and this proves it!”

      NLP’ers claim Derren Brown uses it, but, as you pointed out, he claims he does not. The basis for NLP is in legitimate practices of psychology and hypnosis trying to distill the best of the best. So, if Derren Brown uses any tried and true practices of psychology and hypnosis – similar to the gleams of info used by NLP’ers, then we can understand how this misunderstanding came about. Like a Jew believing a Christian is Jewish because he quoted Deuteronomy or vice-versa.

      I believe the door is still open for NLP to prove itself if its practitioners can get rid of the snake-oil vibe and lack of standardization. Research studies have proven some merit to it. Remember, psychology, an accepted science in most circles, was once considered malarkey.

    • kev

      You really are pretty anal arent you

    • If the intention is to make people think you’re a crank then randomly capitalising words, stubbornly refusing to use paragraph breaks and writing prose in the style of former US President GBW is definitely the way to go.

    • Perhaps. This isn’t trivial though. It affected my job, and possibly (if it worked, which I doubt) manipulated people into buying things they didn’t really need/want.

    • AlbertTatlock

      If you think NLP is rubbish look up “common purpose” Brian Gerrish, NLP is an extremely powerfull tool in experienced hands, can make people hate someone they previously loved, concrete fact. I know of 3 personally who will not seek help and just go blank and cannot speak to give a rational answer when asked, “why do you hate so and so, when you used to love them”?

    • Albert Tatlock

      NLP works without a shadow of doubt, try ; – google, Brian Gerrish, Common Purpose, NLP. Do some digging round there James, its an eye opener. NLP is widely used by many, and quite a few for not so good reasons!

    • ClearintoTrance

      Hypnosis is a verifiable fact of life. Many things you do are self-hypnogogic phenomena and just because you don’t know anything about it, does not mean it is magical thinking. Why would people waste their time and money? Look up some self-hypnosis techniques and try it out for yourself first. It is actually a pretty simple thing to activate in anybody, and its very similar to lucid dreaming. You wouldn’t say that was fake because you can easily grasp that concept because you have dreams and you can imagine yourself controlling those dreams. BUT If you do not wish to go to sleep you can do a pretty decent job of preventing it, same with NLP and hypnosis if you have a base line of understanding it, a conscious incompetence or better, if you will. It is more complicated than just going up to someone and saying some words and doing some tapping on the shoulder. If you choose to be so naive(we do have access to the internet) please keep your thoughts to yourself. Else if your a person that would consider yourself of somewhat intelligence revamp your argument with some valid information and lets have some. Just because everyone said the world was flat didn’t make it so, it was still round just as your ignorance doesn’t make NLP invalid.

    • Gonzalo

      I shall tell you that your experience with “NLP” was very weak.Sales companies that teach the workers “NLP” simply just don’t understand that it’s not just something you say or add ass a comment or simply possition your body in a certain way and it will work. You have to have a minimum understanding of NLP and how it works. Sincerely what you have experienced is noob NLP. i recommend you get a little bit deeper and you will see how all his “ilusions ” begin to have logic explications with neuro linguistic programming.

    • bobsuruncle

      I found it interesting that you are placing yourself in position to determine whether a particular practice or set of critical modal systems techniques is ‘pseudo’ and yet you believe yourself to be “left brained, of course!”, a distinction which is being placed next to ‘flat-earth theory’ and ‘dowsing’.

      I will say this, if you become aware of a Doctor in a field of medicine who has been taught to diagnose illnesses based on symptoms read in a chart – for which he prescribes from a list of concoctions you know are not proven to treat the illness but perhaps only mask the symptoms… Do you throw out your belief in Doctors and medicine all together?

      Food for thought.

    • Albert Satie

      While I think you’ve got it figured out reasonably well (the handwriting was forged most likely by Brown himself), you’re missing the point. He’s a MAGICIAN. Of course he wants you to believe the method for the trick was something other than what it appears. That’s what makes this particular performance so great. All the NLP business is a misdirection.

      You’re not one of those buzzkill guys who stands up in the middle of a CG animated movie and says, “I know how they did that — computers!” Appreciate Brown’s canniness. In the US we have only clumsy aging Goths and kitsch Las Vegan All-About-Me magicians to watch. Be proud of what the UK has produced.

    • I agree with you in part, as I explained in the post:

      I do see the other side. Brown’s performance is an ingenious piece of misdirection. While everyone is concentrating on his hypnotic techniques, the trick is already done, via some very simple and traditional method. To people who don’t buy his NLP stuff, the trick breathes new life into the ordinary magic show.

      The trouble is that is has a negative effect too. I’m ambivalent.

    • IceCat

      I think all magicians have assistants and half of them are in the audience ~

    • IceCat

      If he had a show where someone was supposedly “asleep” traveling across the world, why not hypnotize someone to sleep and switch the note.

      If getting someone as a teller at a race track to be so easily duped into paying out the wrong number on a race, then EVERYONE WOULD BE DOING IT. Sorry but she was an actress or a ‘plant.’

      Like people who handle money in a bank, they are trained to not allow themselves to be distracted and mixed up about the money. I was working at a State Fair when I was 16 and that was the FIRST thing you are taught …. do not allow someone to carry on 2 conversations at once while you are making change, etc. Surely employees at the track have had a ton of training. Sorry, I don’t buy it.

    • Dave Smith

      Read the full blog post about how Derren sees it. Point 3 is key. Everything is checked carefully by Channel 4 lawyers — imagine if Channel 4 had been ‘fooling’ everyone all this time and someone ‘found out’. The law suits would never end. I’m surprised people are so skeptical about techniques so clearly real, and in commonplace all around the world. People are easy to manipulate.

    • His point is that he never says “this is how I did it”. The ‘techniques’ in question ARE fake (as he practically admits in the same blog post), but he gets away with it by not actually explicitly stating he did it that way.

      I see his point. Yes, he doesn’t claim to use NLP so he technically isn’t lying. But I still think it misleads people into thinking that this kind of stuff actually works.

    • Nerdsamwich

      You need to have your sarcasm detector serviced.

    • George Shute

      I know this is an old article, but I just wanted to add my piece.

      Here is my take (for what it’s worth): Darren uses elements of NLP as well as other “suggestive techniques” often used by psychics, card readers, etc. The combination of all of these things, plus the fervor of excitement, leads to easier manipulation. However, his show’s intended target of manipulation is the audience, not necessarily the targets in the show.

      I’ve talked to people after “hypnotism” shows and it’s interesting how their narrative evolves. Often the immediate reaction is that they were “under the influence” to various degrees. One person described it as being drunk. Another said it was like the nervousness of giving your first speech. Some said it didn’t work at all, but they didn’t want to be the “jerk” that didn’t go along with it and ruined the show. Most often these experiences evolve to selective retelling. Some will be told that it worked 100%, some will get the real tale, some will get a mixture. The mythos spreads.

      I do think you’re right about the Simon Pegg bit. It’s what fits the most. The idea I had was that there was a lot of off-camera work or some selective editing, but your explanation fits the best. And, in the end, winds up being a pretty clever trick, doesn’t it? He’s convinced a bunch of people that he fooled Simon Pegg into wanting a BMX bike!

      Still, I don’t doubt that there is a strong degree of manipulation on the part of Darren, especially in his live shows. It’s just that a lot of people don’t understand the bizarre and thoroughly intoxicating feeling of being on stage.

      While I do think it is absurd to suggest that NLP is a 100% foolproof methodology, it does carry a lot of elements that work in brain-washing. While some like to say that brain-washing doesn’t exist, there’s a lot of evidence around us that it’s not untrue.

      Can you take anyone and brain-wash them? To a degree, yes. But how far are you willing to go? “Torture and relief, then repeat,” regiments are immensely successful in breaking people. Ask any long-term spousal abuser. Ask anyone who has been enslaved. (yes, slavery still exists) It isn’t foolproof, but it does work to varying degrees. Confirmation bias. Rejection of cognitive dissonance. Playing to people’s fears. Playing to common desires. Red herrings and other misdirection. All of these are tools. None are completely effective on their own, but you bundle them up to make a logical fallacy toolbox and you got some strong material to work with.

      I had a conversation with my mom about how and why I don’t believe in any gods. I said that, to me, it makes as much sense as ghosts, or Santa, or Bigfoot. I’m not discounting the possibility, but I am discounting the cemented assertions that others make. Maybe there was a magical, elven Santa Clause that rode a magical sleigh around the world, and maybe he died because we stopped believing in him?

      And, really, if you need proof that common tomfoolery can achieve amazing results, then look at the number of successful confidence tricks listed on Wikipedia, most of which actually do work to surprisingly effective degrees. (http://goo.gl/L25Vc)

      When I was younger, I had someone try to pull the change raising scam on me. (http://goo.gl/zdTkNJ) I saw what it was, because I knew about it, and shut it down. It happened to me again about 5 years ago. Other places I have worked at and places run and/or operated by acquaintances of mine have been ripped off by this scam. It’s not entirely unsuccessful. If you fail, you just feign being addle-brained, excuse yourself and walk away.

      A lot of people believe in psychics. A lot of people get scammed. Even Paul Erdős didn’t believe the Monty Hall problem’s conclusions, at first.

    • George Shute

      Also, Penn & Teller show how some of their tricks are done. So, it’s not uncommon for magicians to show how things are done. But I think that the idea of Darren’s shows being some rational and logical expose is a bit far-fetched. His shows are fanciful, as are Penn & Teller’s, but they both tell you that the shows are just that: shows. They’re not real and they don’t have real powers. Just because they’re not willing to divulge everything doesn’t mean they’re not being truthful in their selective statements. Why would anyone expect them to give away all of their secrets all of the time?

    • Not Simon Pegg

      I did a card trick with DB on his website about 10 years ago. It was just him on a poor quality video telling me to think of a card. I had a card in mind but changed it at the last second to the 3 Diamonds which DB wanted me to say. That was because I was influenced by his continual suggestions throughout the film. At the end he showed how he did it. He used gestures, pointing to the two areas of the card were the 3 and the diamond symbol appear. He made a diamond shapes with his hand. He also talked about brightness so as to push me towards the red suits rather than the black. I’m as cynical as they come but this time I had to believe because it worked!

    • Abel Dean

      Notung, I think you are overlooking an especially obvious explanation. Derren Brown has a record of featuring actors on his shows. And Simon Pegg is, of course, an actor.

    • George

      Yes, he says “that’s my handwriting as well”. It’s a nicely put together bit of work.

    • Dkennedy

      Good point (i say to a 2 yr old thread)..

      The ugly mechanism that Brown uses is ugly indeed, it’s paid actors and people who are devoted followers who are coached tremendously and are willing to go along with the script (which at the heart of it, is all hypnosis is – a willing participant).

    • bazz

      Well well could this be yet another money making gravey train. I reckon so .Nlp is quite frankly simpe stuff made complicated so we think we are buying into something special. Well before you waste your money think twice. As for its use in sales situations , management dont waste your companies money. Train staff in good selling skills with the right attitudes good customer service skills and you wont go wrong buf please please dont waste any time and money on nlp.

    • bazz

      You obviously have no idea about sales why are you wasting your time with this nonsense

    • one_kender

      …he’s good at what he does. What most people fail to realize is that not everybody is susceptible to NLP, subliminal messaging, or any of these other techniques that he uses aspects of. All of them have a core aspect of truth with a bunch of BS built up around them. Is he using NLP? Well, yes and no. He’s using techniques associated with NLP and describes them as such. They are combined with a bunch of other manipulative techniques to create an overall effect. This, if done skillfully, works on a little more than half of the people you will run into on a daily basis. It isn’t too hard to determine who is susceptible or not. Grifters do such ALL the time. While Derren says he uses no stooges or anything like that, he is quite up front about susceptibility and the fact that he is screens his “victims” carefully. Even still, there are a number of times he’s stopped in the middle of a trick and told the person it wouldn’t work on them. TV is TV and it’s all about the show. Do I think DB is a master psychologist who should give up his career and open a practice? No. Do I think his methodology is pure science and beyond reproach? Absolutely not, but Mythbusters is far worse on that front.

      As far as your bosses and their quest to teach you to jedi-mind-trick people go, they are idiots for a number of reasons. First off, this takes a HUGE amount of time and effort to master. Second, it’s not NLP. It’s a combination of many different techniques and is only effective on a relatively small group of people. Third, you can’t get people to do something they aren’t already predisposed to do, either.

      Fourth, the number of people who will ever become AT ALL good at the finer aspects of the art of manipulating people is much smaller even still, than the number of people it will have an effect on. It takes being uber-slick on and SUPER intelligent on levels most of us never will be. I know some of it works for me…On a number of occasions, I’ve been able to plant suggestions people have acted on. I will never be as good as someone who has been doing it for so long, though. I could go on, but this is getting old, already. Basically, just because YOU can’t do it and just because it can’t be demonstrated in a lab-type setting doesn’t make it invalid. Environment and environmental stimuli are key to any experience and some things are not as easily done in a psychologist’s office. Most psychologists who take the time to honestly review his work typically ask the same question he does about the “acid test” in the assassin experiment. A performer in a show can often achieve effects due to the environment and ambiance that no psychologist ever could in an office, How much does THAT add to the dynamic? Speak on what you know, don’t try to discredit something you have no way of really understanding

    • sally

      Watching the video you can clearly see he uses hypnosis. If fact DB constantly manipulates ppl with hypnosis in all of his shows and sometimes tries to prove a point against something he dislikes, although he manipulates the subject with hypnosis.
      Nlp also uses some hypnosis and other ssuccessful techniques but mainly in a ethical way for ethical uses.
      Sadly lots of firms use selling techniques unethically. One of the worst is Tesco.
      Over the years they have made the trollies bigger and the shelves higher as it makes customers buy more. So do aromas, sneaky pricing, packaging and items aimed at children.

    • Peter Hooper

      Certainly we know that advertisement and repetition DOES NOT WORK AT ALL!!

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    • Chris

      You are not that intelligent if you take Brian Gerrish seriously. At first, I liked the UK Column but a quickly found that he talks some serious nonesense and makes a lot of accusations without any proper evidence. Conspiracy theorists in general do not seem to have a very good grasp of what constitutes evidence

    • Chris

      Yeah, scientists are all lying. Everything you read is a lie put out by the illuminati. If you believe anything that a maintstream person says you must be one of the sheeple.

    • verbatim613

      NLP is used by Will Smith’s character in the movie Focus. He “programs” a heavy gambler to pick a certain player’s jersey number (on the field) while they sit high up in luxury boxes.

    • ThisSteveGuy

      My pet theory about the Simon Pegg bit is that Brown knew that he was the type of guy who would play along with whatever he was hinting at. Derren has spoken openly about how some of the results of hypnotism are due to some volunteers playing along with the performer, and that’s what I think was happening here. He took advantage of that as much as he could. Pegg didn’t want to blow it for the famous mentalist on his expensive show, so he went out of his way to make it work, just as Brown knew he would. Like it or not, that’s a valid form of mentalism; the end product for us was perfect, and most importantly – it didn’t involve the subject explicitly being told what to do. The clue words appearing on the screen were merely red herrings for the audience, but they were entertaining ones, “informing” the viewer on the mental manipulations he was pulling off. Simon was clever enough to figure out that Brown wanted BMX bike as the answer, and he obliged.

      Mind you, that’s just my pet theory. I’m not 100% sure of that, and I’m DEFINITELY not saying that’s how everything he does works. Everybody’s different, so that kind of approach won’t work on everyone.

      Sometimes he does actually find a person who is very open to suggestion and can influence them in ways they aren’t expecting. Unless he just has outright stooges, which he swears he does not employ in the opening credits of every show, I can’t get over the “Assassin” episode of “Derren Brown: The Experiments” he did in 2011. He [SPOILERS from here on out…] hypnotized a man to put his entire body in a bath full of ice water and sit comfortably. After that and other such stunts, he made that same person go through a lie detector test about whether or not he was just playing along, and he wasn’t.

    • ppxAnonymous

      Find: The Luciferian Doctrine pdf

    • I can’t help but concluding: Either (a) Derren Brown is a master manipulator psychologically damaging people for profit, or (b) He’s a huckster himself, letting his audience walk away with the belief that he’s a master manipulator capable of psychologically controlling anyone. Either way, Darren Brown is no friend of science, or the truth. He is a television entertainer, who has discovered a unique niche, and who gets to wear skepticism as if it’s a piece of stage costuming.

    • richard cariven

      Derren brown uses NLP as anouther form of misdirection. Yes he suggests that he used nlp techniques but that is to provide a cover for the real trickery. The difference between him and Uri geller is that uri insists what he does is not a trick or illusion. Derren openly states “I use old fashioned liiusuon, sleight of hand, psychology and trickery”

    • Lynda Petterwood

      Thank you for giving credence to NLP and I sincerely hope that people who have a challenge in life will enquire into having an NLP Practitioner support them in overcoming their challenge. I have assisted thousands of clients overcome depression, anxiety, stress, hatred, resentment plus many more emotional pains as well as phobias using NLP. Like a hammer, NLP is a tool and only as effective as the intention and expertise of the user of it.

    • Matt Marchand

      Sorry but you just dont get it. I watched video and understood immediately what he was doing and why it works. We create are own reality the same way. Derren used a strong memory which had a lot of emotion around it. Derren really grabs Simons attention with the script he is using. Derren anchors his suggestions which are embedded in his script by touching Simon repeatedly as says the embedded suggestions related to the bike. Each of us have strong memories with emotional content buried in our subconscious mind. All that it takes to bring them up is to focus attention on the emotions around an event. People have these events triggered all the time. We have the same fights and arguements. We repeat the same relationships over and over again. Just say the right words and bingo the same emotional reaction comes up. Derren just takes the memory and frames it into a new context and tbinks

    • Matt Marchand

      And thinks its real. Which brings to mind whats really real. We create our own meaning by making unconscious judgements that then create a projection of reality.

    • Andrew

      Watched this a while back, think it pretty amazing what can be achieved with NLP. Pegg is so confused by it, so sure he wanted a BMX. Think there is elements of Leading and pacing in there too, a common hypnoses technique. http://verbalmindtricks.com/