I have to say that after spending a couple of years in close contact w/ the 'stuff' behind the magic curtain I have a different perspective on what reality is for anyone. Of course, there are many things that have fed this new perspective including some pretty serious content on hypnotherapy, nlp, and human behavioural science. All I can say is that I have a much greater appreciation and understanding of why you can have 10 people looking at the same thing and see it 10 different ways. For all of us ... each situation becomes a personal 'experience' that will be colored by all that has gone before.
If we just think about magic for a moment ... let's make it a card trick ... and I start by taking a pack of red bicycle 808 poker cards out of my pocket and place it on the table. What do you think is being said by just placing the still wrapped pack on the table ... without saying a word? (answer is below) Will this mean the same thing to a weekly poker player as it does a four year old child who doesn't yet know what a deck of playing cards even is?
If I showed you a trick where I made one 'quark' (a subatomic particle) pass right thru another quark would you be amazed ... or would you just say 'Big deal, quarks do that naturally'? You'd have to know what a quark was for anything to amaze you ... and it would be way too much work for me to explain to you what a quark was ... what it's properties were ... and why passing two of them through each other was worththy of amazement. And why would you believe that I really knew what a quark was or that I could effectively explain it to you anyhow (even though ... i do ... and i can ... see read this section ... dancing wu li masters).
When an effect is performed what I'm going to do is try to direct your focus and attention toward the things that will reinforce (or build upon) what you are likely to already assume or know (read that again). So by placing the brand new pack of cards on the table I've 'said' to the weekly poker player ... 52 cards, four suits, 13 cards each suit, 2 jokers, an advertisement card, the rules card for texas hold 'em, they'll be in new deck order; ordered by rank within each suit ... and yet ... I've said nothing at all. If I let him open the pack and shuffle the deck freely ... I've said a whole lot more ... no setup of the deck, cards look and feel legit, any amazing effect to follow must be real magic. Of course, to the four year old I've said nothing ... verbally or otherwise ... and likely just really confused him or her ... 'cause they've never seen a deck of cards. They don't know what is normal ... or what is not. They don't know what 'boundries' there are for what can be done with these things (cards) ... and what cannot.
So I'm going to 'push the buttons' already wired in your head to re-inforce and create an expectation about what I'm doing ... and what you're seeing ... and then somewhere along the way I'm going to do something that looks like one thing ... a normal 'looking' thing that also serves to reinforce a pre-existing assumption or expectation ... yet really is something totally different. You think the only possible outcome could be choice 'A' (based on what you thought you saw and heard) ... but I'm already a mile down the path of choice 'B' ... and surprise, surprise ... there's your magic.
Was it real ... or was it a trick? At what point did anything I may have done register as real or something else? Didn't I have you in the real column all the way until the big surprise? It was real until I 'twisted' that next expected thing and 'revealed' it as something else. It was only then that you start to question. The part of the brain processing all the optical input knows what it saw (the illusion) ... but the cognitive side can't reconcile that and comes up w/ all the explanations for what really occured ... 'ahah ... it was a trick'!
It's already all in your head ... built from all your life's experiences ... every new thing coming in gets matched up against all that you already know ... determines if this is something known or something new ... should I let it in or should I challenge (question) it. It's easier to reinforce what's already there (if I know how to do that) than it would be for me to try to make you 'believe' something you've never seen or experienced. This is one reason why nearly all great magic effects involve a commonly known item (ie. coins, cards, string, rings, bills, rope, paper, boxes, table items, etc)
I'm leveraging this dynamic, along w/ a little knowledge about optical physiology (how your eye works), persuasive language, and of course the technical skill of sleight of hand to create a perception of reality for you ... to create YOUR reality ... to create magic.