As an addendum to my previous post I would like to point to the crucial social factor involved in the kind of mind tricks that Derren Brown enacts. As I have claimed: behavior (or sensorimotor action) cannot ever be restricted to a (neural) core (whence it issues from), rather it should be recognized as something distributed and environmentally orchestrated, especially in the case of humans. As humans, we live in a world of a complex range of symbolic and abstract cues that (passive dynamically) in-form all of our actions; one could say: we in-habit this world. What Derren achieves in many of his feats is actually tweaking the environmental cues that trigger off a (sensorimotor) response whereby the attention of the individual (in whose mind/perception the magic occurs) is drawn out of the orbit of the act of tweaking itself. Roughly. As the environmental cues shift so do our expectations and dispositions and the dynamics of our attention change. An essential element in all this is the fact that we are deeply social creatures.
Some theorists speculate that a certain form of mirroring (via mirror neurons) plays a key role in (hierarchically organized) group formation. In the view of Michael Tomasello it is our capacities for ’shared attention’ and ’joint intentions’ that set us apart from animals. In one form or another it is the imitation and emulation of one another (be it tacit or explicit) that is at the root of all our social behavior. We share a virtual world of symbols and meanings within which the roles and the goals and the desires we pursue have us enmeshed within the same loop of social behavior. There are, of course, variations in regards to the openness (or susceptibility, responsiveness) and closeness (withdrawnness) of individual members in the society, but the fact remains: our behavior is social, shared and enmeshed. (Usually, we flee from this public aspect of ourselves but occasionally, when we are in the right kind of mood we feel that we deeply resonate with others. Perhaps. But this is beside the point.) The kind of suggestive hypnosis by which Derren Brown affects one’s behavior requires a robust enough resonance or (rhythmic) entrainment between himself and the subject of hypnosis which is successfully achieved because he taps rather effectively into our deeply social nature.