Mentalist skills: How do they do it?

‍Few things are as fascinating as mentalist skills.

Mentalist performances can appear to be magic.

But how do mentalists appear to know private information about audience members? How do they apparently predict what someone is thinking?

We’re diving into this burning question today: How do mentalists do it?

What is mentalism?

Mentalism is an art that explores the power of the mind.

There is a growing awareness that thoughts and feelings affect the body in tangible ways.

Mentalists want to explore and demonstrate the implications of this. A mentalist might want to make you aware that you can use your mind to improve your life.

This is done by performing feats that appear to be supernatural.

These feats happen in a controlled environment where the mentalist has used deception to make them appear as if they are psychic.

Now: are mentalists actually psychic?

While some people would argue that the best mentalists probably have some psychic abilities, most people agree that the majority of “wonders” are simply mind games played on you by the mentalist.

But what is mentalism?

Mentalism is a branch of magic that explores the mind’s power to affect the physical world.

A typical performance involves a person who can read minds, predict the future, and make objects disappear. Mentalists use their skill to perform feats of “mind-reading” and “mind control.”

It’s important to note that mentalism has no connection with psychology or psychiatry.

Most mentalists do not claim to have any knowledge of what another person is thinking at any given time.

They often use their skills as an entertaining way to make people aware that they are affecting their own thoughts and emotions.

This is most commonly done by making objects appear or disappear, but some mentalists are known for predicting future events in the audience’s lives.

Mentalists can also leave predictions in written form for you to find later, which in turn adds another layer of mystery and entertainment for the audience members.

The magic behind mentalism

Many mentalists want to leave their audiences with the idea that they have witnessed magic.

The more closely the audience can associate their experience with magic, the more likely they are to remember the experience and seek out further mentalist shows.

Now: most people are fully aware that there is no magic involved with being a mentalist, it is all just tricks and deceiving, but we still love seeing those shows because, for just a few minutes, we get to feel as though magic is real!

When a mentalist wants to perform a feat they can use either sleight of hand or stage magic.

Sleight of hand is when you conceal your secrets in plain sight.

An example would be when you want to pick up a coin in your pocket, but the audience sees you put it somewhere else.

This can appear as if you have magically placed the coin somewhere else.

It may sound impossible, but it only takes a split second for us to forget where we last saw something and then there’s nothing special about it at all, we just don’t remember where we saw it so well that we can always find it again!

This is why sleight of hand tricks are so effective. The audience doesn’t know what’s going on because they don’t see anything happen.

Now, mentalists are often magicians, as well, as those two skill sets go hand in hand.

In reality, there is not really any magic involved in mentalism, save the few exceptions that actually possess psychic abilities.

When a mentalist puts on a show, they are performing the same tricks that people have been doing for hundreds of years.

These tricks are not easy to do, so most mentalists spend years training and practicing them before they ever perform in front of an audience.

The majority of mentalists you see out there in the world today have been performing for at least 10 years, some even longer than that!

Many people become mentalists because they have a natural talent for it and want to use this gift to make the world better.

After all, who doesn’t want to forget about life for a few hours while being immersed in a magical show?

But I haven’t even told you the best news yet:

As there is no real magic involved in being a mentalist, nothing is holding you back from pursuing this profession!

Let’s take a look at how to be a mentalist:

How to be a mentalist

If you want to be a mentalist, you should keep in mind that you are basically an illusionist.

You’re performing an act that is meant to deceive.

Simply put, you’re trying to trick people.

To be a mentalist, you need to be a good actor, an attentive observer, and an expert at misdirection.

If you want to be a mentalist, you should keep a journal and write down your thoughts, feelings, and observations.

This will help you understand your own mind better, and it will also help you understand the thoughts and feelings of others better.

You should also practice different mind-body techniques such as meditation, visualization, and breathing exercises.

This will help you connect your thoughts and feelings to your body and make them more concrete and easier to manipulate.

Think about it: the better you know yourself, the better you can judge your audience.

Mentalists play on people’s emotions, probabilities, and biases.

So, the better you understand how these things work on yourself, the better you will become at your skill of being a mentalist.

Do you need to go to school to be a mentalist?


There are many mentalists who never had a formal education in the subject.

The only real requirement is the ability to concentrate and pay attention.

You can become a mentalist by learning to do tricks, or you can become a mentalist by becoming an expert at reading people, and at misdirection.

Now: some mentalists will actually get trained in entertainment, like how to be more entertaining on stage, as that is a huge part of a mentalist’s success, but as for the real skills, you can just learn them yourself.

The most important part of being a mentalist is stepping into your own personal power.

So what can you do to change your life and learn how to be a mentalist?

Begin with yourself. Stop searching for external fixes to sort out your life, deep down, you know this isn’t working.

And that’s because until you look within and unleash your personal power, you’ll never find the satisfaction and fulfillment you’re searching for.

I learned this from the shaman Rudá Iandê. His life mission is to help people restore balance to their lives and unlock their creativity and potential.

He has an incredible approach that combines ancient shamanic techniques with a modern-day twist.

In his excellent free video, Rudá explains effective methods to achieve what you want in life and use your mind to your advantage.

So if you want to build a better relationship with yourself, unlock your endless potential, and put passion at the heart of everything you do, start now by checking out his genuine advice.

Here’s a link to the free video again.

1) Psychological manipulation

Mentalists are not just a magician with impressive skills.

They are also psychologists who study the human psyche.

By learning more about how your mind works, you can use your powers for good.

The best mentalists study the way the brain functions, including how it processes and stores information.

Mentalists also study how the brain reacts to different stimuli and what this can reveal about a person.

The way a person experiences something can sometimes provide insight into their personality, habits, and thoughts.

Mentalists use this information to manipulate the audience, especially through psychological illusion.

This is when a mentalist performs a trick or feat that appears to have a psychological effect on the audience.

So, while you don’t need any formal education to be a mentalist, the more you know about basic human psychology, the better you will be able to trick people.

How do mentalists learn all of this?

Have you ever heard the saying “practice makes perfect”?

The same applies to being a mentalist.

You don’t have to go to school to be a mentalist, but you can learn the skills from books and tutorials online or at seminars.

Books and tutorials are great for learning about psychology, but there is nothing like sitting in a room with other people who are trying to teach you how to do it and then practicing it for real.

Especially when it comes to psychological illusion, it helps to practice a LOT.

The more you do it, the better you will get.

The best way to learn is to make a study group of people who are all interested in learning it and then just do it together.

Maybe some of your friends would be interested in learning about it, as well!

A very quick and easy trick to learn about psychological manipulation is the Benjamin Franklin effect (named after him because he used this technique quite a lot).

When you feel as though someone doesn’t like you, simply ask them to borrow a pen.

They will most probably say yes, as it’s such a simple and quick favor.

Now: what most people don’t know is that doing such a short and simple favor for you will actually make them like you a lot more than they did at first!

It’s simple but effective!

Another trick is to figure out whether or not someone likes you (this can come in really handy when you’re dating someone!!)

Whenever they say a certain word or a synonym of that word, smile and nod at them.

If you notice that they subconsciously start to use that word more often, they like you!

The human psyche is really easily manipulated if you only know how to!

2) The art of illusion and triggers

This is a very common technique in magic shows.

Mentalists might use a deck of cards because playing cards are associated with gambling, which can trigger certain emotions in people.

If a mentalist can get an audience member to associate certain emotions with a deck of cards, they can make them think that a particular card has been selected for them.

Triggers like these can make it easier for a mentalist to manipulate an audience member’s emotions, thoughts, and even sense of reality.

Mentalist shows are not the only places where the art of illusion comes into play.

These triggers are often used in advertising and marketing campaigns to make people buy a product or service.

You’d be surprised how much you get manipulated every single day.

The art of illusion can also be used for good.

Artists can use the power of illusion to make people see something that isn’t really there or to make them feel a certain emotion.

They can also use it for good by using it in order to help people get through some tough situations or even to help them recover from some difficult situations.

Now, obviously, mentalists need the art of illusion in order to make their tricks work.

They aren’t real mind-readers, so, of course, there needs to be some sort of illusion involved.

But when it comes to the art of illusion, there are so many different ways that one can use it and it can be used to help so many different people and situations.

The art of illusion is a great thing to learn, but it is important to stay humble and remember that you are not a mind-reader.

Going into the art of illusion would be way beyond the scope of this article, but all you need to know for now is that things are not as they seem when it comes to mentalists.

If you want to learn more about this, there are plenty of books and articles that can help you learn more.

3) Playing with probability

Another way that mentalists create the illusion of being psychic is by playing with probability.

Out of all the decisions you can make when talking to a mentalist, they often put their bet on what would be your most likely answer.

This can make it seem as if the mentalist knows things about the person that they shouldn’t know.

You see, humans are pretty simple creatures sometimes. You’d be surprised how many of our thoughts are just based on probability.

I will go further into this a bit later in this article when I show you a simple trick you can do yourself, but for now, remember that humans have certain answers to questions that are just more likely than others.

Based on this knowledge, you can blow your audience’s mind by simply guessing their thoughts.

They will never know that their thoughts were literally just the most probable answer.

That’s a great way to make your audience think that you have a special ability.

I mean think about it: if you can choose whatever you want to think about and someone guesses it right, you’d believe they can read your mind, right?

Well, unfortunately, we just aren’t as unique as we’d like to believe we are.

The truth is that you probably have the same thoughts as most people, especially in response to certain questions. All of us are just human.

But there’s good news about that!

You can use this ability to make people think you have special skills!

You just need to use the right approach and a little bit of magic.

4) Misdirection

Mentalists use misdirection to direct the attention of the audience in a way that ensures they do not see the illusion that is taking place.

Misdirection is an art in itself. There are numerous ways of misdirecting the audience.

One of the most common ways is to have the audience focused on one thing while something else is being done.

Certain props or items can also be used in misdirection.

For example, a card trick can be performed with a playing card in a way that makes it appear as if the card has traveled from one hand to the other.

But misdirection has a few very specific reasons behind it:

  • To disguise a move

One of the most common uses of misdirection is for the mentalist to disguise a move.

For example, a mentalist can use moments of concentration while you are thinking about an answer to a question in order to make a move.

  • To distract the audience

Another common use of misdirection is to distract the audience.

For example, a mentalist can make a coin disappear and then reappear under their nose while they are thinking of other things.

This is used to make them think that they have seen something when in fact they haven’t.

  • To hide their method

Every wondrous miracle is just the result of a good trick. So, mentalists use misdirection in order to hide their method.

This is done in order to not show their true tricks and make the audience think that they have seen something that they haven’t.

The key to using misdirection well is to know where you are going with your trick and what you are trying to achieve.

If you use misdirection in the wrong way, then it will not work out well for you. However, if used correctly, it can take your performance to the next level!

5) Reading body language and concealing body language yourself

Body language is a big part of mentalism.

It’s not impossible to control your body language, so you can use it to manipulate your audience.

Needless to say, it’s really important that you be conscious of your own body language while performing.

It’s easy to forget about your body language if you’re experiencing the moment.

You can use body language to make someone feel positive, negative, or neutral emotions.

You can also use it to make someone believe something that isn’t true.

Mentalists can use certain gestures to trigger emotions in the audience, like a hand gesture that means “winning” or a hand gesture that means “losing”.

Mentalists can also use body language to conceal what they’re doing. It’s important to keep your hands in a relaxed position so that no one can see what you’re doing with them.

When you’re standing on stage, make sure to stand relaxed and keep your eyes focused on the audience.

Now, your own body language is obviously important, but it’s even more crucial to have the ability to read other people’s body language.

You can easily read other people’s body language by looking at their hands.

For example, if a person is clenching their fists and frowning, it could mean that they’re angry or upset.

If a person is putting their hands in their pockets and looking away from the audience, it could mean that they’re nervous or embarrassed.

But wait, that’s not all!

Let’s look at some basic body language cues:

Positive Body Language

  • the head is tilted to one side
  • rubbing hands together quickly
  • stroking chin or beard
  • firm handshake
  • leaning into someone

All of these are examples of positive body language. They indicate the person is open to you, curious, confident, and in a good mood.

Negative Body Language

  • arms crossed
  • leaning away from someone
  • hand placed on the cheek (lost in thoughts)
  • pulling their ear (indecisive)
  • sitting on the edge of the seat
  • locked ankles

All these examples indicate negative body language. This person is either nervous, apprehensive, on edge, or indecisive.

It’s important to note that all of these actions are completely subconscious, so mentalists practices picking up on these cues.

However, don’t forget that humans are still individuals, and making assumptions based solely on body language may not always be exact!

6) Confidence, performance, and communication skills

Mentalism can be a very powerful performance.

It is often said that your performance determines whether you succeed or fail.

If you lack confidence, you can easily appear inexperienced.

Simply put, when you are nervous or uncomfortable on stage, you can make the audience feel that way as well.

When you have the right tools, you can transform your show.

Mentalism is performance art, and it is all about communication.

It is important to understand that your audience members are just normal people.

You need to learn how to communicate with your audience so that they understand why you are doing what you are doing.

Communication can be anything from your voice to your body language.

If you know how to communicate with your audience members, they are more likely to enjoy your performance.

They are also more likely to remember your show and want to come and see you again.

I know, we like to believe that the best mentalists are just amazing mind readers, but in fact, the best mentalists have only one thing in common: they are great entertainers.

You see, mentalism is a performance, I already told you that the tricks are usually nothing super crazy, it’s the execution that sets you apart from other mentalists.

You are a performer, and you need to use your skills to entertain your audience.

The best way to do this is to keep your audience engaged.

It’s all about being engaging, it’s all about being interesting.

If you have that quality, you can leave the stage with a big smile on your face and an audience in tow!

Sure, the more experienced you become the more impressive your tricks will be, but without the right delivery, these tricks will not have the same effect.

So, in order to become an amazing mentalist, you need to work on your confidence, performance skills, and communication.

Essentially, you are working on the same things an actor would work on.

7) Simple tricks you can try

Let’s take a look at a couple of simple tricks you can try right now!

The grey elephant from Denmark

This is one of the most commonly known tricks but it will impress an audience regardless.

Mentalists often ask the audience to think of a number between one and ten.

Once they’ve done this, they ask the audience members to do the following math equation:

Multiply the number by 9, then add the digits together and subtract 5.

What the audience doesn’t know is that no matter which number between one and ten you choose, the answer will be 4.

So, let’s say we chose 7.

7 times 9 is 63.

6 plus 3 is 9.

9 minus 5 is 4.

Okay, so now that you know it will always be the number 4, ask them to assign a number to each letter of the alphabet -> A=1, B=2, C=3, D=4 etc.

As everybody’s number will be 4, everyone’s letter will be D.

Are you still following?

Okay, so now ask them to think of a country starting with this letter.

Here the probability comes in. Most people will think of Denmark.

Now, ask them to think of an animal that starts with the letter after the one they just had (this would be E)

Most people will immediately think of an elephant.

Alright, the last step: tell your audience to think of the color of that animal.

Good, now you’re ready to impress them and say that they’re thinking about a grey elephant from Denmark!

Neat, huh?

It’s always 5

Okay, if you liked how easy this first trick was, you will love this one!

Ask someone to think of a number.

Now they need to add the next highest number to this number. Then add nine, divide by two, and subtract the original number.

Guess what? The answer will always be 5!

For example:

The number you think of is 40.

40+41= 81


90/2 = 45

45-40= 5

Pretty cool, right?

8) Don’t get lost in spirituality

While mentalism can certainly seem psychic and magical, it’s important to not get too lost in spirituality when trying to acquire this skill.

In fact, it might help you to become a bit more rational and let go of any potentially toxic habits you have at the moment.

When it comes to your personal spiritual journey, which toxic habits have you unknowingly picked up?

Is it the need to be positive all the time? Is it a sense of superiority over those who lack spiritual awareness?

Even well-meaning gurus and experts can get it wrong.

The result is that you end up achieving the opposite of what you’re searching for. You do more to harm yourself than to heal.

You may even hurt those around you.

In this eye-opening video, the shaman Rudá Iandé explains how so many of us fall into the toxic spirituality trap. He himself went through a similar experience at the start of his journey.

As he mentions in the video, spirituality should be about empowering yourself. Not suppressing emotions, not judging others, but forming a pure connection with who you are at your core.

If this is what you’d like to achieve, click here to watch the free video.

Even if you’re well into your spiritual journey, it’s never too late to unlearn the myths you’ve bought for truth!

Once you’ve done that, learning mentalism will come much easier for you!

How long does it take to become a true mentalist?

Well, this question is hard to answer as there is no definite time period that marks a mentalist.

The best thing to do is to take the time you put into it and see how much progress you make.

A good place to start is by learning some of the techniques I’m teaching you in this article and then building your skillset from there.

When you feel confident with them, then start to get more daring.

Remember, the more you practice something, the better you’ll get at it.

This is just a small taste of what’s to come!

Are there schools that teach mentalism?

If you think that this is a skill that you can’t possibly learn at school, think again!

Just like there are magic schools, there are also mentalist schools and courses that will teach you all the things you need to know in order to become a mentalist!

A mentalist is someone who uses their skills to entertain people with their mind, so of course, they can learn these skills at a school.

They use these skills to make people think that they have supernatural abilities such as telekinesis and telepathy.

Usually, these schools will teach:

Where do mentalists work?

Well, basically the world is a mentalist’s oyster!

Depending on the skillset and confidence of a mentalist, there are really no limitations as to where they can work.

You see, a mentalist can work as a street artist, collecting money, but they can also work on a big stage, talking to a huge audience.

Then again, some mentalists prefer small gigs, such as birthday parties.

Again, this really depends on your skill set, confidence, and what you prefer!

Is mentalism only good for entertainment?

If you want to continue to get better at mentalism and become a professional mentalist, then there are many different routes that you can take.

The best thing about mentalism is that it’s not just for entertainment!

Mentalists use their skills for all kinds of things:

You see, the basis of mentalism is learning about human psychology and how to read, trick, and manipulate people.

Now: needless to say that you can use all of these skills to get ahead in life, as well!

Think about it: if you can read and manipulate people effortlessly, it is a lot easier for you to get your way in life.

Whether you choose to use your mentalist skills outside of performances is a question of personal preference, and, of course, ethics, but I would be lying if I said it wouldn’t come in handy at times!

And the best part?

You don’t need to be Patrick Jane in order to impress people.

If you learn just a few basics about people and their preferences, you can already use mentalism to your advantage in everyday life!

Will you practice?

Now you’ve found out a lot of information about becoming a mentalist.

What do you think, is that a career path you can envision yourself going down?

Or is it maybe a skill you would like to acquire for personal use?

Either way, mentalism is fascinating and mind-blowing, and I think anybody would profit from learning a few mind tricks here and there to have an advantage in life!

So, what are you waiting for? Get learning and figure out a few tricks here and there that will make your life a lot easier!

Trust me, I did, and it blew my mind what a difference it can make!

Picture of Anna Scheucher

Anna Scheucher

Freelance writer specializing in holistic health, wellness, and psychology. Check out my blog to find out more!

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