Saturday 16 September



The illusionist's brain is (not) a joke

Palacio Euskalduna

Invitations: Book »



Free entry until full capacity. In Collaboration with NAUKAS (from 12.10 to 12.30h)

Pardon me for starting with such a bad joke. However, more than a hundred years ago, Bergson, the influential French philosopher, said that every joke is a disappointed expectation. The funny thing is that it could hardly be any other way. Our brain is a complex adaptive system primarily engaged in waiting, that is, in predicting what will come in the near future, and in detecting the disappointment of those expectations, the mistake we make in predicting -which is not the same as perceiving- reality.

Magic and humour work in much the same way, although they have different goals. In fact, both a magic trick and a joke begin with a narrative: a detailed, step-by-step presentation of logical and predictable facts to the audience. Finally, the conclude with an unexpected twist, and its absurdity provokes laughter, humour, or its impossibility creates astonishment and disbelief, i.e., magic.

I will describe these similarities and differences using practical examples and putting them in a neuroscientific context. The idea is to wrap up with a (re)view of the concept of reality that may challenge some of our long-held preconceptions on the subject.

Luis M. Martínez

  • Luis M. Martínez