I wrote the following answer to the question: Is it possible to do the things Derren Brown does with just psychology or linguistic suggestion? . There is a 1999 video by Derren Brown posted on youtube, where he demonstrates both the hypnosis aspects of his act, and the sleight of hand aspects, and gives the general program of patter that he uses to support the system.

The answer is about as well referenced as it can be. Magic tricks are not documented well in many places, and most are not available to the general public. But the truly mystifying aspects of Derren Brown's peformances are all due to the use of pre-show hypnosis, and not saying this is leaving the impression of magic or mind-reading.

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    I'm noticing a trend. When your answers are deleted you quote them in full on meta (rather than just the relevant sentence). It has the appearance of trying to skirt the site rules with a technicality to make sure your opinion is published.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 27 '12 at 23:34

I agree that just because something is on YouTube does not make it unreliable.

I wrote in chat after the answer was deleted:

@Larian: You recently deleted an answer, saying that YouTube wasn't reliable. I'm worried that might be taken the wrong way. It isn't the medium itself that was the problem in that case. It was the anecdotal nature of the evidence.

Just as quoting Nixon saying "I'm not a crook" doesn't prove he wasn't a crook.

Just quoting a water dowser saying "I use quantum effects" doesn't prove they are using quantum effects.

Quoting a magician about his own effects is equally troublesome.

Other problems include:

  • You didn't point to where he made claims. I had to watch for 50 minutes before I found the NLP claims. Expecting every reader to sit through that long to check your claims is unreasonable.

  • He didn't make the claims you attributed to him in the video you linked. He didn't talk about pre-hypnosis. I don't recall him mentioning hypnosis at all in his post-show explanation.

  • His claims about NLP have been proven incorrect or without evidence. He describes it as unreliable, but he may be fooling himself.

  • The video is pirated. I guess I am supposed to consider this an issue between Brown and YouTube, but it made me uncomfortable citing it.

  • Especially for pirated videos, YouTube takes down videos regularly, meaning it is important to explain what the video contains before link-rot sets in.

p.s. No-one is claiming hypnosis doesn't exist. However, there has been a long-term dispute about to what degree what we see in stage hypnosis is the same as the type of hypnosis normally studied by psychologists.

  • Magician Penn Jilette recently told a story on his podcast about how he was explaining the gimmick behind an effect to an audience, and his partner Teller leaned over and explained "We haven't done it that way for 15 years." Sometimes even magicians don't know how their own tricks work...
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 28 '12 at 0:29
  • A YouTube video is exactly as unreliable a text on paste bin, unless you believe that video makes things more reliable by itself. The point is there is no peer review, no possibility of peer review, and no claim of accuracy.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 28 '12 at 14:04
  • @Sklivvz: Notwithstanding that videos can be faked just like text can: I can imagine a video of conference proceedings, a press conference, a news report, etc. being considered strong evidence to support an answer. Indeed, I have cited YouTube in at least one answer. It isn't as strong as peer-reviewed journal articles, and I would vote for one that cited such information over a YouTube link, but I think the reliability of videos is based on more than just its URL. They are fine for showing, for e.g., that a politician really did say X.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 28 '12 at 14:34
  • I disagree completely, sorry. Anyone can upload anything on youtube - there is no filter. The commenting system is so broken that even if something is a blatant piece of falsehood, it can't be down voted or marked as such. It is way, way less reliable than Wikipedia and we don't allow Wikipedia, either. So I don't see how allowing a random youtube video is acceptable.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 28 '12 at 21:16
  • @Sklivvz: Hypothetical: If the question was "Can Uri Geller bend spoons with his mind?" and the answer included a link to a YouTube video of James Randi showing a TV audience a clip of Geller and explaining how they could bend spoons themselves the same way from home, I wouldn't have an objection. If the question was "Do aliens exist?" and the video was of a UFO, everything you say is relevant.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 28 '12 at 22:08
  • But even then it would be an appeal to authority (of James Randi).
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 29 '12 at 21:16
  • Even if he provides simple step-by-step instructions to repeat the effect at home, so you can do it yourself? (I reaffirm that I would much rather peer-reviewed work, but on some subjects, we can't expect to see any.)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 29 '12 at 22:10
  • wait, so James Randi posts an uncontroversial fact with repro steps on youtube and there is no other corroborating evidence in other sites? Even with repro steps that's really not right... The problem is not youtube, is youtube and nothing else.
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 29 '12 at 22:26
  • We maybe closer to agreement than it appears. What about an analogy to sugar/diet? As long as YouTube is a moderate part of a well-balanced diet of evidence, it is fine, but if that is all you have, there's a problem.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Nov 29 '12 at 22:57
  • as I say in my answer, "A magician speaking about their craft is not unsustainable in conjunction with more evidence, but it's not enough by itself: is what they are saying a controversial opinion? Is it a widely accepted fact in the magician community?"
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 29 '12 at 23:02
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    See also: skepdic.com/authorty.html which is where I took a hint from: "it should be noted that it is not irrelevant to cite an authority to support a claim one is not competent to judge. However, in such cases the authority must be speaking in his or her own field of expertise and the claim should be one that other experts in the field do not generally consider to be controversial."
    – Sklivvz
    Nov 29 '12 at 23:02

Your answer is chock-full of outrageous, unreferenced claims. You know the rules on this site. You may disagree with them, but you still have to abide by them. And even without invoking the rules you should perceive that your answer is poor in facts and rich in speculation and hand-waving.

And yet you have the gall to complain about the deletion of such a sub-par answer?

The answer is about as well referenced as it can be.

You have got to be kidding me. Your answer is about as well referenced as an answer to a homeopathy question saying “of course homeopathy is real, just read Hahnemann’s Organon, it’s all explained in there.” It’s inadequate in every regard.


No, they are generally not reliable enough. In fact, we routinely challenge stuff claimed in youtube videos.

Also "go watch this video" is as unacceptable as "go read this book". It is not a way to reference, it is a way of appealing to authority.

A magician speaking about their craft is not unsustainable in conjunction with more evidence, but it's not enough by itself: is what they are saying a controversial opinion? Is it a widely accepted fact in the magician community?

Finally, use precise word-for-word citations. A handy wavy summary of someone else's long dissertation is not acceptable because it may not represent their though, but your opinion of it (which is irrelevant in the context of this site).

This site is all about evidence, and not about opinions. Your answer should be 99% evidence and 1% opinions, instead of the opposite, like your "wall of text" answer.

For completeness these are the comments left by the downvoting user(s) and moderator on deletion:

Ron, this may not surprise you, but you need some decent references. You make some big, bold (wrong) claims here. You need to show that hypnotic suggestion can do what you claim. You need to show that the BMX bike preference wasn't simply substituted in to replace what was originally written. You need to show it is HIS innovation to do the same effect twice with different methods to make it more difficult to discern. (Good luck with that! It is common practice.) You need to show he is generally honest when he, himself, claims he is dishonest when on stage. Etc. Etc. – Oddthinking 20 hours ago

To which you replied and then Larian posted:

Ron... Evidence by YouTube isn't reliable enough for the standards of this site. I am going to delete this answer, as I have done all the other unreferenced answers). Feel free to add in more reliable and trustworthy references, and I will put the answer back. – Larian LeQuella♦ 16 hours ago

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    I disagree with everything you say, and I do not appeal to authority. Sorting right and wrong is what comments and voting are for, not references. You can support any stupid opinion, including "hypnosis does not exist" with references, you need to use your brain. Derren Brown speaking about his effects, and demonstrating them, are the best evidence as to how he performs his effects. He has moved more and more away from stage magic on his television shows to pure hypnosis stunts: "The Assassin" is what I would have thought to be an impossible hypnotic stunt before he pulled it off.
    – Ron Maimon
    Nov 27 '12 at 14:03

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