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Magicians use sleight of hand to confuse you about where an object is. But could they make you believe that you saw a non-existent object disappear?

A team of experimental psychologists at Oxford University developed their own magic trick to find out. Their results are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Matthew Tompkins led the study. He explained: 'The science of magic actually played a significant role in the development of Experimental Psychology; the founding fathers of psychology were keenly interested in understanding how magicians could manipulate people's perceptions. Despite this initial interest, magic has been largely ignored by contemporary psychologists until relatively recently. Much of sleight of hand magic is about misdirecting people about the location of an object, and there is a growing body of psychological research about how magicians cause our minds to override the input of our senses.

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