My head is still spinning from 4 days at The Amazing Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas. Presentations from early morning to late afternoon, with entertainment every evening. Penn Jillette (of magician duo Penn & Teller) hosted a private "rock and roll, donut and bacon party" and offered a 2-for-1 deal on his magic show (also amazing!) at the Rio hotel.

What is TAM? It's an annual celebration of science, skepticism and critical thinking. This year's speakers included experts in the fields of medicine, astronomy, physics, art, neuroscience and psychology.

Carol Tavris photoElizabeth Loftus photo Richard Wiseman photo

Among the latter were Elizabeth Loftus, Richard Wiseman and Carol Tavris. Dr. Tavris got a standing ovation for her talk on cognitive dissonance to explain why people hold onto false beliefs in the face of facts and evidence.

Why is this noteworthy? Because it told me that this audience of educated people were unfamiliar with the concept of cognitive dissonance. Thus, other basic psychological phenomena may also be unfamiliar to them ... which is where we come in. As mental health professionals, we can contribute a great deal in enlightening others about how the mind works.

My award for the most entertaining TAM speaker was Dr. Richard Wiseman, social psychologist and former magician, whose presentation on illusions and misperceptions kept us in stitches for an hour and a half.

A few years ago I read Wiseman's book, The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles
- and it did bring me luck! (or so I choose to believe.)

Lucky strike #1: While reading the book in an airport departure lounge, I learned that my flight was oversold, and that my husband and I would be bumped. For this, we each got a $200 travel voucher...And we ended up getting home earlier than originally booked.

Lucky strike #2: The next day I went to my Rotary luncheon meeting downtown. I park in a multi-level parking garage, where I usually have to drive up many floors to find a parking space. But that day I found a spot on the first floor, right next to the elevator. Dr. Wiseman's book was still in my briefcase. .

When I saw him recently at TAM I noted that one need not even read his book to be lucky - just carry it around! 😉

Here's a video of Richard Wiseman talking about luck.

And here's just a fun demo of 5 amazing mind stunts that will amaze your friends.