Wish I’d heard about this ahead of time as I would have promoted it a little. Was flipping through the channels while eating dinner this evening and came across a special on NBC called Secrets of Psychics Revealed by the same guy who brought you World’s Most Amazing Videos Vols. 1-5. The show claimed to lay bare the tricks used by “professional” psychics in plying their trade culminating in a segment about those that claim to speak with the dead.
It was, OK, but nothing to get excited about. As an expose it tended to stick to revealing the lesser-sophisticated techniques that are little more than slight-of-hand parlor tricks or blatant misrepresentations. Stuff like how the psychics make a dollar bill fold in their hand by itself or how mediums will make a ring float up a pencil and make use of magic slate writing to impress clients, etc. For the bigger stuff like remote viewing and speaking with the dead they simply said the “psychic” made use of assistants who scouted out audience members ahead of time for the details the psychics would come up with during the show.
While technically accurate on most points, the show disappointed me because it didn’t do much of anything to promote critical thinking. It was more of a “here’s how they do it so don’t believe them anymore” approach which may work on some folks for the short term, but doesn’t do anything to cancel out the more sophisticated fakers like John Edward who are a bit more creative in how they pull off their illusions. As near as I could tell the show didn’t consult with any professional skeptics and some of the explanations they gave were overly simplistic.
I suppose I should be happy that NBC aired a debunking show such as that in prime-time and hope that it convinces at least a few more people to be a little less gullible, but it could have taken that extra step and helped to educate people on how to think this stuff through on their own so they’d be better prepared to handle the new twists and turns future “psychics” will put on old parlor tricks.