DENVER — Are mentalists simply an entertaining form of social engineer?
Take Sidney Friedman for example. This "musical mentalist," who performed this week at the Identiverse Conference in Denver was somehow able to sit down at a keyboard and play the exact songs that audience members wrote down on a piece of paper or even just silently thought in their heads.
One by one, in mind-blowing fashion, he nailed every guess. "Sweet Caroline." "Billie Jean." He even correctly guessed that one attendee chose "Happy Birthday" was because it was her actual birthday.
Are there secrets to this act? Almost certainly. Mentalists are known to use every possible advantage that's at their disposal, including their ability to understand human behavior, deconstruct body language and plant suggestions — and in some cases perhaps sleight of hand or the use of human plants. (Not making accusations here, Mr. Friedman!) Indeed, there is plenty of content one can find on the internet that explains how mentalists are able to perform their amazing feats.
Certainly we weren't going to get Friedman to spill his secrets, but SC Media's Bradley Barth did interview the showman after his performance to see if he feels there are any parallels between his act and what social engineers do. "Social engineering is more of a trick," said Friedman. "They're sending you a phishing email that looks like it's a legitimate Chase banking account or something of that sort, and people click on it. This is not a trick that it do. I try to make it as real as possible."
However, "what I do involves understanding human psychology, getting a read just from body language, understanding certain probabilities," and in that sense there are some similarities with social engineers, he added.
Watch the embedded video and judge for yourself.