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On Sunday, a lady from church saw me limping, and said that she had something to show me that might help.

Tonight, she showed me magnetic shoe inserts. I'm listening politely, and thinking "BS!," but then the demonstrations came.

She had me hold my arms out in front of me, hands clasped together, and she proceeded to push me back by pushing up on my arms (mechanical advantage). Then I stood on the inserts, did (what I thought) was the same thing, and I didn't get pushed back.

I'm very concerned that I was taken for a fool, but I can't figure out how. All I could find on the web was that it might have been the "power of suggestion" but is there some other common trick that's employed?

I mean, if they help that much, why not, but if it's magnetic snake oil it's of course not worth the money.

  • Were they expecting you to pay for the magic magnets? – ElendilTheTall Mar 31 '11 at 9:11
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    While waiting for answer, take a look at tips and tricks section for Placebo Bands. They are a product which is supposed to do nothing, but there are few tricks on how it could be perceived that it is doing something. – AndrejaKo Mar 31 '11 at 9:33
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    When I was in middle school, the school had a speaker come and address most of the students in the gym. The speaker used this technique to prove that by collectively thinking positive thoughts we could influence the physical strength of other people. I didn't buy it then, but it's sad how much misinformation school children can be subjected to because the adults are not being skeptical (and thus not fulfilling their responsibilities as educators). – Mark Rogers Mar 31 '11 at 14:26
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Yes, this is a trick. There’s a video on YouTube from the Skeptic Zone Podcast demonstrating how it’s done.

Essentially, the lady tricked you – she didn’t always apply the same kind of pressure, she changed the vector of the applied force slightly. This allows her to apply an equal amount of pressure but without the same effect.

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    with respect to the TV commercials that seem to be popular now, it is obvious in every case that they are changing the vector. – horatio Mar 31 '11 at 14:16
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    This makes perfect sense. It also explains why I had difficulty detecting it while it was being done to me. It doesn't appear to be a big change. Thanks! – John Apr 1 '11 at 1:49
  • I would even believe she didn't do it intentionally. From reading the OP I'd expect it was just some sort of confirmation bias. – Kevin Mar 6 '17 at 5:02

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