Mentalism – Mentalism is a performing art in which its practitioners, known as mentalists, use mental acuity, cold reading, hot reading, principles of stage magic, and/or suggestion to present the illusion of mind reading, psycho kinesis, extra-sensory perception, precognition, clairvoyance or mind control. Hypnosis may also be used as the stage tool.
This definition is spot on – take note of the words ‘present the illusion of Mind Reading’. I haven’t given the definition of mind reading for a very good reason, as the ‘real’ definition pertains to a superhuman ability and in my opinion an ability that based on evidence, doesn’t exist. This on the other hand is another debate for a whole other day.
Mind Reading as you know it, performed on TV by magicians/mentalists/mind readers etc. is merely a form of Mentalism (see above) – simple magic tricks dressed up to represent certain abilities e.g. Impossible Body Reading, psychic ability etc. This a may seem fairly obvious to most of you but believe me – many, many people believe people can actually read minds, which for us mentalists/mind readers, is great news.
I have a previously written an article on the persona of the mentalist so I won’t go into detail here but being congruent is very important when performing mentalism tricks and some mentalists do it better than others. You need to choose between being psychic and being a body language/human behavioral expert. You cannot be both to your audience as they will assume there is general trickery (which of course there is) going on More information.
There’s a thin line between the mentalist and the magician. The main one being the presentation of the effect. A mentalist will usually have a false explanation for the effect whereas a magician will not usually give an explanation and say it was merely magic. Without a false explanation the audience will come to their own conclusion and usually it will be the actual method used e.g. sleight of hand.