The SOMA Committee
Dr. Gustav Kuhn, B.Sc., D.Phil., M.M.C.
Gustav Kuhn is a Cognitive Psychologist interested in human perception and cognition. Much of his research focuses on magic and explores ways in which magicians allow people to experience the impossible. He is the head of the MAGIC lab at Goldsmiths University in London, where psychologists use magic methods to study a wide range questions about human cognition. For example, why is your mind so easily trick? How can we misdirect your attention, and why is your experience distorted by perceptual, attentional and other more general cognitive illusions? He believes that the science of magic can provide us with valuable insights into human cognition. Much of his other research centers on social cognition, and attentional processes involved in social interactions.
Dr. Cyril Thomas, Ph.D.
Cyril is a French researcher and a skillful close-up magician. His approach is highly driven by a strong interest for perception, attention and problem solving. During the last two years, Cyril has published five articles on the science of magic topic in prestigious international journals and has recently obtained a grant from the Fyssen Fountation to conduct post-doctoral research at Goldsmiths, University of London, under the supervision of Dr. Gustav Kuhn. Cyril’s research examines methods often used by magicians relatively unexplored by psychologists, including the deceptive technique of presenting false solutions to enhance illusions. Cyril’s ambition is not only to shed an original light on cognitive process that psychologists already known, but to discover new perspectives that may provide grounds for the discovery of as-yet-unidentified cognitive processes.
Dr. Anthony Barnhart, Ph.D.
Dr. Anthony Barnhart is an Assistant Professor of Psychological Science at Carthage College in Kenosha, Wisconsin. He received his Ph.D. in Cognitive Science from Arizona State University. Tony is also a part-time professional magician with over 20 years of performing experience. His research trajectory changed in 2010 with the publication of the book Sleights of Mind: What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, in which he was featured as a consultant and teacher on the science of stage magic. The scientific interest that the book garnered motivated Tony to shift his focus toward the interface of science and magic. His current research on the topic explores inattentional blindness and the techniques magicians use to manipulate attentional deployment in time. He regularly teaches a college course devoted to the cognitive science of magic.
Matt Tompkins, B.A., M.Sc., M.M.C.
Matt Tompkins is a part-time professional magician and a doctoral researcher at Oxford University's Department of Experimental Psychology. His central interest is how people use their perceptual experiences to form beliefs about the world. His empirical research involves combing behavioral methodologies from cognitive psychology with visual stimuli inspired by performance magic. His research has recently been featured across international media outlets including the Washington Post and BBC Future.
Jay Olson, B.A., M.Sc.
Jay Olson began magic at the age of 5 when a furniture store worker pulled a coin from his ear. After performing for most of his life, he worked with Dr. Ronald Rensink at the University of British Columbia to study the psychology of magic. Jay is currently completing a PhD in Psychiatry at McGill University with Dr. Amir Raz. Jay's research examines how magic, suggestion, and deception can be combined to create new methods in psychology. His studies have shown how magicians subtly influence audiences and how people can be deceived into believing that a machine is controlling their mind. Beyond the science of magic, Jay is interested in applying psychological findings to prevent jet lag and reduce shift work fatigue.