114 comments

  1. It actually got my fingers to less than a half inch apart. It was difficult to prevent them from closing in, but possible to prevent them from closing in completely. Very neat trick.

  2. Ums, that’s not a thought experiment as much as it’s a hypnosis test of suggestibility. A classic one is to clasp your hands together and imagine them glued, holding them tightly until the glue “sets” then try to pull them apart.

    Sadly, I was thinking about that as your video played and was unable to accomplish any self-hypnosis at the same time, my fingers stayed where they were.

    However I remembered two things I need to take care of!

    😉

  3. It didn’t work when I watched the video but did after. I think during the video I was determined to prove you wrong, but afterwards I wanted to see why the effect happened. I’m guessing the ligaments in my fingers are not very flexible and it’s natural for my fingers to move.

  4. My fingers actually starting moving together before you tied the invisible thread around them. This leads me to two conclusions. 1) you do have the power to control my fingers. 2) I can see into the future.

    Very good trick though. I’ll be trying this out on my friends soon 🙂

  5. There was definitely some part of me that wanted my fingers to come together, held strong though! My willpower defeats YouTube again!

    ..now of to go watch some lol-cat vids.

  6. My fingers seemed to naturally drift together – holding them apart required a small amount of effort, imagination or no – but I never had any trouble pulling them apart when I wanted to. I’m not sure what others might have felt pulling them in though, so I can’t say if this relaxation is just it, but I suspect it isn’t.

  7. Hold your fingers parallel to each other and think about something else. They will come close together. Because they aren’t parallel when they’re relaxed. It takes effort to keep them parallel.

    1. Yeah, I don’t think the string stuff has anything to do with it. If your hands are clasped like that there is considerable leverage working to bring your fingers together automatically. You have to work to keep them apart. And people are notoriously bad at holding parts of their body still. That’s why you can’t effectively measure something by holding one hand at each end of it and then moving your hands “together” to some reference object. So yeah, mine ended up a bit closer together, but I don’t think the specifics of the video had anything to do with it.

    2. The real mind trick would be to show that it works the other way as well, getting people to move their fingers further apart rather than towards the more relaxed position.

  8. Nope, nothing. I kept waiting for the experiment to begin and then it was over. Perhaps my having been a symphony musician has something to do with it? I’m used to keeping my hands to a task while watching someone else’s hands for instruction.

  9. Hum… that’s a good trick but not a “thought experiment” at all !
    It’s merely a mechanical feature of our hands > try to hold the same hand-position WITHOUT THE VIDEO RUNNING and you’ll see your fingers will slowly move towards each other all the same. That’s only because our index’ sinews are pulled back by the other fingers being closed.

    1. I agree with you, but the interesting bit is the ease with which one can be fooled into thinking that it is the imaginary thread that is doing the work. Oh how we have to fight the natural instinct that correlation = causality!

    2. Agreed completely, that is exactly the point I was going to make. I watched the video and found myself struggling to keep my fingers an inch apart, then thought: what about if there was no video. Sure enough, clasping my hands together and holding the fingers apart in general takes the same level of effort.

  10. Nope, didn’t have any effect on my fingers at all. Not sure if it matters, but I do a lot of fine motor skill work with my fingers. I’m a hummingbird bander and need to have a lot of control over my fingers when I’m making the tiny bands, placing a band on the birds’ tiny legs and also completing all the measuring tasks required while holding the bird in hand.

    1. do you really band hummingbirds? I know of banding to track migration patterns and I’ve been working on doing a bird count now that my urban wildlife habitat has become well established as a feeding stop and nesting location…..humming birds are so very beautiful! Like natures living jewels….so very lucky!

  11. Huh. I was trying not to think too much about the video and keep my fingers steady, but I looked down and they were almost touching.

  12. Good one!

    This is nice suggestibility test. One thing that made it difficult was that you started by saying that you’ll try to ifluence our behaviour. This made most of us (incl. me) opposing it and not letting it happen.

    Better way would be to call it test to test our ability to concentrate and after it’s done to reveal that it was influence in fact. That would increase score of people that cpomply to your suggestion to 80% and more.

    But still – nice suggestibility test.

  13. As was said earlier in the comments, it requires effort to keep the fingers parallel in that position. Associating your string-pulling gesture with the actual resistance in the fingers would be an easy thing for many people, I’m sure. I caught on to what you were doing, but it still seems like it would be a good trick under more unassuming circumstances. Maybe I’ll try it on one of my friends after he’s had a couple of drinks.

  14. I was listening to the instructions waiting for it to start when I realized it was over but when I looked at my fingers were touching….I can feel the tips of my fingers I have lost a large amount of my fine motor skills but I did replay and this time paid attention and was able to keep my fingers apart.

  15. I tried it without the video afterwards and keeping my mind on something else. After a few seconds the fingers touched. Explanation: Holding your fingers like that is an effort of will, ´cause the fingers don´t relax at all, and when you are distracted, they will close the gap.
    The illusion is that you think Richard is bending your mind, but he isn´t. You are bending because of the distraction. There is no spoon 🙂

  16. Yes they moved together, but I think mainly because my fingers really didn’t like being an inch apart. They hurt afterwards!

  17. I think the interesting result here is that people interpret the effect based on what they assume will be going on. Clasping your hands together make holding your fingers out in that manner very unnatural – thus eventually your fingers will naturally move back together, especially if your attention is mildly diverted. Given the tone of the video and the manner of its setup and staging, people are quick to assume this is a result of suggestibility or hypnosis.
    An application of a little science to pick apart the elements, as Fran6co did above, reveals what aspects are actually causing the effect, and what is window dressing.
    The simplest answer is almost always the right one (and sadly usually the most dull!)

  18. Nope. I just held my fingers about an inch apart. I didn’t even feel like I was “resisting” although I was focused on the task.

    1. Goodness members of Parliament throwing eggs and smacking each other around and even hair pulling? Richard you naughty boy what have you done to them….lol…..

    2. OH NNNEEEVVER mind….face in hands shaking head…..correction from news report….Ukraine Parliament……dumb….dumb….somedays they shouldn’t let me go on-line….take lap top away until I can use it safely……I’m crawling under my bed and stay there….I think there might be some leftover chocolate chip cookies still there…….

    3. lilmissjk…..I heard that lolz……. giggle …..cookies were a little dry without the milk……OK dusty too… but they were broken and that lets the calories leak out and anything eaten under the bed don’t count anyway…….lol……

  19. My fingers did move, though I think it was more a function of flexibility than anything. Anytime I try to hold them an inch apart they want to drift back in. I could see this as a very convincing trick though 🙂

  20. Well, I was able to hold my fingers apart, but this is not a mind trick.

    The relaxed position for the fingers is together, so that it takes exertion to hold them apart. If we took this to another extreme, and placed the body in a more severe stress position, for example standing on the balls of your feet with the knees bent, I am sure that a little chatting for distraction would not be considered as the cause of the eventual muscle fatigue.

  21. Nothing. Maybe because I haven’t had my morning coffee yet but I was concentrating on keeping the fingers parallel and, well, nothing, I just held them parallel for the full length of the video.

  22. Nothing happened. It occured to me that I wasn’t trying very hard to visualize the “string,” and if I were trying harder then it might have had more of an effect. However, if I had been expending that much effort to visualize the effect, I’m not sure I could have called it “against my will.”

  23. I don’t get it. Is there some kind of hidden joke that I’m missing? Of course it doesn’t work, why would it?

  24. Moving fingers to an inch apart puts a bit of tension vs natural state. So natural state without a video would be to move to close. Were doing it anyway regardless of thread and could easiliy just keep apart.

  25. Nope, my fingers stayed the same. You should add a surprise ending though with everyone concentrating a guillotine or something would have been a fun ending….

  26. I thought we were “SUPPOSED” to put our fingers together when you said you were going to put them together. Then i did it again and nothing happened. My fingers were the same, im not sure if it had anything to do with the way i did it again…..

  27. Like others, I found that my fingers naturally wanted to come together anyway, without really *feeling* like they were coming together. Curiously, though, I got more of a closing effect when I was watching the video instead of watching my fingers. If I paid attention to my fingers, it was easier to keep them apart.

    1. well just don’t hurt the bears….like if some of your fingers get stuck between it’s teeth and remove sharp objects so when they fall down and roll around laughing at you they don’t get hurt…….hehe…make sure your camera is on auto focus….don’t think you will have time to worry with it……

  28. My fingers drifted closer together but I feel it has less to do with the suggestion and more to do with the fact that holding them apart takes effort and without that effort they would naturally drift together anyway.

  29. As others have said, they moved together but probably because the natural relaxed state for them in that initial posture is closer together.

  30. I like the one where you hold your arms out, imagine one has a balloon tied to it, and one is holding a bucket. That way, nobody can say “Oh well your arms just get tired or your fingers naturally want to close blah blah blah”

  31. Right, nothing happened on the first try, then tried it again to make sure and nothing happened at all. Then, I tried it eyes closed since someone mentioned it might work (and I study psychology, I wan’t to know if I’m suggestible =P). When I opened my eyes, my fingers were actually closer to each other! About half an inch apart. One last try with eyes closed, maybe a bit more conscious about the effect this time, nothing happened.

    My guess that on the third try I was most relaxed and since the first two tries didn’t result to any changes, I didn’t try to keep my fingers at a fixed distance from each other. Fourth time I didn’t have to struggle to keep them apart but did try not to bring them together.

  32. Nope nothing, no effect. However I think the experiment might have had more of an impact If I did not know what the anticipated outcome was supposed to be.

    If you said to hold my fingers apart one inch and then imagine if I wrap a string around your fingers etc without telling me the idea was to hold my fingers apart I would likely have been much more influenced by your suggestion of tying them together.

  33. It moved, it felt as though I was not in control of my fingers. I felt the thread.
    Aslo… A spoon bent in my drawer!

    1. Following the same logic, why would you even watch a video just because some guy asks you to?

      “Find out by taking part in The Thought Experiment…”.

      You choose to either take part or not. No point in looking into the research interest, watching the video, and then pretending to be a rebel.

    2. This is a test of how suggestible you are, and a test of how much you want to be told that you’re not suggestible. I didn’t fold my hands either, because I thought it would be as simple as that. “How suggestible are you? I’d like you to interlock your fingers. Done that? Well then you’re very suggestible.”
      I don’t need some test to tell me I’m not suggestible. Suggestible (just one more there for luck).

  34. My fingers moved together even though I tried to focus on keeping them apart, but I am a bit tired today. I like what Superhans said above, what a rebel! Was an interesting experiment. Cheers 🙂

  35. My fingers moved together until there was about 1cm between them, but there is a rational explanation. The muscles in my hands naturally wanted to push my fingers together when they relaxed. When I was distracted by watching the video, my fingers naturally edged closer together.

  36. Nothing here. but I think thats because I’m in Scotland. Further north and all that you know…

  37. Nope, fingers stayed put but I suspect if it had taken longer my hands would have relaxed and my fingers come together.

  38. It didn’t work, but I have been successfully hypnotized in the past. Apparently this just wasn’t one of those times. There was no effect at all.

  39. It’s amazing, they moved towards each other ! I didn’t notice until I felt them touch. It was quite natural, like some imaginary string was gently pushing them.

    1. Yes
      mainly because the brain forces us and pushes us in such a state that it only made us belief that that will work. But practically all is the work of muscle relaxing and contraction .

  40. Nice suggestibility test! I do this sometimes before showing hypnosis experiment. I think it would be more effective if you have added even a suggestion on two magnet that push together the fingers helping the strip and if you have asked the people to concentrate on your video, on the space between the fingers o somewhere else.

    Nice blog by the way. I’m a new acquirent of Quirkology, hopefully I’ll receive it soon 🙂

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  44. This trick was used on me to test to be hypnotized and my hands were shaking bad. They had complete control over me on stage. When I try to keep my fingers apart my hands and forearms tighten up till it hurts. Still cannot keep my fingers apart. Does not work with anyone else in the family.

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