arrow4 Comments
  1. Jyllian Kemsley
    Mar 11 - 1:23 pm

    The New Yorker had a fascinating profile of pickpocket Apollo Robbins in January that included discussion of how he diverts attention to pick pockets successfully. Wired Science posted some videos that show his technique.

  2. Lauren Wolf
    Mar 11 - 1:57 pm

    Hey Jyllian, thanks for sharing this–it’s a terrific profile. I actually did talk to Macknick a little bit about Apollo Robbins as well. As mentioned in the New Yorker piece, they published a paper together in 2011 confirming one of Robbins’ beliefs about his pickpocketing ( When he doesn’t want to steal something but wants his victim to get worried, Robbins moves his hand in a straight line from a person’s pocket. When he actually wants to steal something, he moves his hand in an arched motion. Macknick told me it likely works because of the two types of motion humans’ eyes are capable of. Pursuit eye movement (the kind that tracks an object smoothly) comes into play in the arched motion and makes for greater misdirection.

  3. Carmen Drahl
    Mar 11 - 4:34 pm

    And there’s more! NYTimes’s George Johnson spun a yarn about Robbins’ skills for an article about that very 2007 conference. Macknick ended up attending the Santa Fe writing workshop the same year I did, when he was still prepping his book.

  4. Jyllian Kemsley
    Mar 25 - 1:01 pm

    National Geographic’s “Brain Games” has an upcoming episode on mastering and manipulating attention: Pay Attention! Experts on the show include David Copperfield and Apollo Robbins.

    (Via Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, which had Robbins on its show last weekend.)

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