Richard Wiseman on Lessons from Dale Carnegie, How to Keep a Luck Diary, Mentalism, The Psychology of the Paranormal, Mass Participation Experiments, NLP, Remote Viewing, and Attempting the Impossible (#593)

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My mantra is always What is the scientific underpinning of these ideas?
— Richard Wiseman

Richard Wiseman (@richardwiseman) holds Britain’s only professorship in the public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles examining the psychology of magic and illusion, the paranormal, luck, and self-help. His books on psychology, which include The Luck Factor: The Scientific Study of the Lucky Mind and 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, have sold more than three million copies worldwide, and his psychology-based YouTube videos have garnered more than 500 million views.

Elizabeth Loftus, former president of The Association for Psychological Science, described Richard as “one of the world’s most creative psychologists,” and The Independent On Sunday chose him as one of the top 100 people who make Britain a better place to live. In addition to his work in the field of psychology, Richard served as director of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for eight years.

He recently co-authored David Copperfield’s History of Magic, and his next book, Psychology: Why It Matters, will be published later this year.

Please enjoy!

Listen to the episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, Podcast Addict, Pocket Casts, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Amazon Musicor on your favorite podcast platform. You can watch the interview on YouTube here.

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The transcript of this episode can be found here. Transcripts of all episodes can be found here.

#593: Richard Wiseman on Lessons from Dale Carnegie, How to Keep a Luck Diary, Mentalism, The Psychology of the Paranormal, Mass Participation Experiments, NLP, Remote Viewing, and Attempting the Impossible

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What was your favorite quote or lesson from this episode? Please let me know in the comments.


Want to hear an episode with someone else you might meet at the Magic Castle bar? Listen to my conversation with sleight-of-hand wizard Richard Turner, in which we discuss finagling free suits, why practice does not necessarily make perfect, how Richard has managed not to miss a single workout in 49 years, fighting 10 rounds in a sweltering Tijuana sweatbox with peripheral vision, channeling Charles Bonnet Syndrome like a superpower, and much more.

#411: Richard Turner — The Magical Phenom Who Will Blow Your Mind


  • Connect with Richard Wiseman:

Website | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube


  • What is The Edinburgh Fringe Festival? [06:01]
  • Richard explains how he, as a skeptic, got recruited into the world of parapsychology research, and why he dedicated years of his life to it. [07:23]
  • What is the Magic Circle Society? [14:00]
  • What disciplines and frameworks do magicians like Richard pick up that prove useful in other areas of life? [15:44]
  • Who among Richard’s fellow magicians do we find particularly impressive, and what’s the real reason they’re not likely to tell you how they perform their illusions? [17:40]
  • What is mentalism? [24:47]
  • Two recommendations: a card mechanic and a mentalist worth your while. [26:03]
  • Richard has carried out a number of mass participation studies. What are they, and which ones has he found most memorable? [27:06]
  • What is NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), and what has Richard’s research had to say about its efficacy? [36:15]
  • A more effective alternative to brainstorming. [39:32]
  • In Richard’s estimation, what areas of scientific study are woefully underfunded and underresearched? [40:22]
  • What did Richard discover while researching remote viewing that the CIA might have missed? Can remote viewing be faked? [43:26]
  • How does Richard choose the subjects his books cover, and how did an annoying heckler once inspire him to improve a working title? [47:10]
  • Twitter remote viewing, Victorian-style seances, and a ghost hunt in one of Henry VIII’s old…haunts. [50:28]
  • Why is Richard fascinated by dreaming, and how has his experience with lucid dreaming been disappointing thus far? Might one of his future books be titled The Upside of Night Terrors? [54:11]
  • How has my experience with lucid dreaming differed from Richard’s? [59:40]
  • What has Richard learned about improving sleep since writing a book about it? Has he stopped having night terrors? [1:02:25]
  • Self-development books Richard has actually found helpful, and why he takes issue with so much of the rest. [1:05:57]
  • What is a luck diary, and why should you consider keeping one? [1:09:51]
  • How Richard avoids overthinking idea generation. [1:12:40]
  • Why the mass participation study that attempted to crowdsource the world’s funniest joke may have just resulted in pinpointing the world’s blandest. [1:13:45]
  • How does Richard feel certain facets of his work could be applied in schools? Has this been tested? [1:14:51]
  • What was (or wasn’t) the Yale Goal Study, and what is its most important lesson? [1:16:41]
  • On the malleability of observation and memory — which can result in anything from seance manipulation to false convictions. [1:20:43]
  • Are there any researchers currently delving into the mysteries of parapsychology who Richard respects deeply? Why might a well-respected scientist risk their career and reputation to pursue something so difficult to prove? [1:25:26]
  • What makes studying what went on psychologically behind the scenes at NASA during the Apollo moon landings so compelling for Richard? [1:30:35]
  • Whose picture is on Richard’s mantel? Knock if you know the answer. [1:33:47]
  • What would Richard’s billboard say? [1:35:49]
  • Recommended documentaries. [1:37:00]
  • How does a performer like Derren Brown keep their show fresh after 578 performances without burning out? [1:44:11]
  • Parting thoughts. [1:46:18]


“Magic tricks have to work every single time. Not only when people see them, but when they talk about it in the bar afterwards.”
— Richard Wiseman

“Magicians withhold their secrets for the good of the audience.”
— Richard Wiseman

“People have difficult lives. We know that. And we know that psychology can help them.”
— Richard Wiseman

“My mantra is always What is the scientific underpinning of these ideas?
— Richard Wiseman

“This is going to go at some point. So make tonight count.”
— Richard Wiseman

— Richard Wiseman


The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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13 Replies to “Richard Wiseman on Lessons from Dale Carnegie, How to Keep a Luck Diary, Mentalism, The Psychology of the Paranormal, Mass Participation Experiments, NLP, Remote Viewing, and Attempting the Impossible (#593)”

  1. Hi Tim: I am hoping you might consider making your long held greeting more gender inclusive? “Boys and Girls, Ladies and germs” while a fun and historically significant way to begin the podcast, excludes people who do not identify in the gender binary framework. It’s a small change that has significant meaning. Just throwing it out there. Love your show. Love your work. 🙂

    1. I love the podcast. I’ve been listening for years and feel like what I learn from the show benefits my way of thinking and life. So, thank you. I do wish there were more female guests though. There is a gender imbalance, and the male influence feels amplified to me because when male guests talk about their influencers and friends, they usually mention more men.

    2. Was having this same thought while listening to the intro. I do feel like the boys and girls, lemurs and squirrels” version of the intro is playful and more inclusive. Likewise, love what you do.

  2. Loved this podcast. What an interesting human is Richard Wiseman! We have 59 seconds on the bookshelf but I’ve never read it, so it’s now off the book shelf ready for some night reading.

  3. I met Richard Wiseman (and James Randi) at an event in 2001 in Las Vegas, and I’ve seen him in the UK and US at various other events. I’ve read most of his books, and I’ve read most of Tim’s books, and it’s so great to see them talking together. Richard Wiseman is such an engaging guest, no matter what the format. This is the Venn diagram for me of my interests merging in one podcast. Thank you for this entertaining and educational episode!

  4. I’ve thought for a while you would love Delgaudio and it’s been exciting to hear you go from having read his book, to “exchanged some text messages with him.” I’m guessing he might be on the show soon and look forward to that episode. His work is stunning.

  5. Hey Tim,
    I saw in your latest email that your dog eats too fast. I recently saw a clever and free solution to this problem – a woman filled her dog’s bowl and then threw it up in the air in the middle of the open kitchen/ living room. Her dog had no choice but to take her time eating since she had to walk all over the place to eat 😛

  6. Dr. Wiseman had many interesting and useful things to say. I did, however, think that his remarks and the experiments connected to NLP seemed misguided or confused. The claim NLP makes is that people’s physiologies, including their eye movements, reflect their thinking processes. In order to, for example, observe when someone is remembering something verbal vs. making something up on the spot (which could indicate lying if you were asking about a memory) you would need to calibrate that person, as there is so variation between people. If that is not taken into account in the experiment, then the results will be misleading. More problematic is that in both cases the person lying (or not) knew that they would be lying (or not) and so was remembering something verbal that they had had time to prepare, so lying and truth telling would look exactly the same (given individual variation in eye accessing cues). Perhaps the eye movement thing is a nonstarter, but Dr. WIseman’s analysis and experiments do not show this to be the case.
    NLP started as something that seems like it would be of great interest to you Tim, the modelling of excellent performers in a way that other people could learn and internalise those models, accelerating their skill acquisition tremendously. Much of the later marketing and so forth has obscured this but there are useful tools in this area that could supplement your obviously top notch game in this domain.

  7. Chilling article. Felt so good after reading this article. Glad to share I found my night binge-reading material for tonight.

  8. I was extremely disappoint in the shallow exploration of NLP on this podcast. First off, I don’t believe that eye movements are useful to discern if a person is lying. In all my NLP training, this was never taught. I don’t know where this concept of watching eye movements and lying came from. NLP is not a science. It was a set of techniques that were modeled from very successful Psychotherapist. Specifically, Milton Erickson, Virginia Satir, and Fritz Pearls. The language/lingusitic models alone are very powerful tools that can be used in multiple contexts. Your guest was very limited in his understanding of NLP and reflected his academic vs practical background. I was disappointed in this conversations. I was disappointed in Tim’s dismissal of NLP out of hand. I was starting to develop a respect for Tim Ferris but I am now going to reconsider that. I thought that Tim would be more open to exploring the possibilities of NLP. Granted it doesn’t always work and often does not fit for everyone. None the less it is valuable to those of us who do find it useful.

  9. I love the podcast! He is really one of a kind in terms of magic and illusions. I would love to collaborate with you in the future!.