The Sally Andy Trick

Joe Mckay sent me an email that mentioned a test that is done to assess a child’s “Theory of Mind.” That is, their ability to understand that other people have a perspective that is different than their own.

Here is a description of the test…


I think it’s interesting that a test that’s so simple might be able to tell us something so profound about what is or isn’t going on in someone’s head.

I thought there might be some sort of interesting premise for a trick to be found in this test. And, if so, I assumed that trick would have a psychological aspect to it. A trick that would perhaps enlighten and educate the audience in regards to their abilities of perception.

But then after ruminating on the idea for a week or so I thought, “Oh. Actually, that would be a funny presentation for the vanishing coke bottle.”

I didn’t get a chance to try it out for a while because I don’t have a vanishing bottle of any type, but this weekend I was visiting a friend who des and I got to try it out for someone.

You need two small paper bags, a marker, a vanishing bottle, and a real bottle that looks close enough to the gimmick.

I was showing the trick to my friend’s brother, Rich. I mentioned the Sally Anne test but not by name. I just asked him if he remembered taking that test in school that they use to assess your “theory of mind.” Of course, he didn’t, because I don’t think this is actually a common thing. So I went on to describe the test, but not too clearly. This gave me an excuse to get some props and give him a proper demonstration.

I went to the other room and grabbed everything. The vanishing Coke bottle was compressed in one of the folded bags. I set the real Coke bottle on the table. I wrote Sally on the bag with the gimmick in it, and Anne on the other bag. Unfolded and opened both and set them on the table.

I grabbed a couple stuffed animals from his daughter’s room to represent Sally and Anne.

I put the real bottle in Sally’s bag (next to the gimmick). I then told the “story” of the test. Sally leaves (I knock her off the table). Anne goes over and steals the Coke from Sally’s bag and puts it in her own (the gimmick). Sally returns (I pick her up and waddle her along the table).

“Where will Sally look for the Coke?” I asked.

“In her own bag,” Rich said.

“Right. Exactly. So you passed the Sally Anne test. And that shows you have a Theory of Mind. But in actuality, where is the Coke?”

“In Anne’s bag,” he said.

“Oh, noooooo,” I said, with over-the-top fake concern. “Oh, that’s too bad.”

He gave me a confused look.

“I’m so sorry. But you failed the Andy Test.”

“Oh yeah? And what’s that test?” he asked.

“That’s the test I give to see if you’re a fucking braindead idiot,” I said, while tapping my finger repeatedly against my temple.

I pulled the bottle out of Sally’s bag and crumpled up Anne’s.

I might not use that exact closing line if I was performing for a stranger, but it’s fine when performing for friends. Unless your friends suck and get all worked up over stupid shit. No, you don’t want to come off as a prick when you do magic. But if your asshole-ness is way over the top, then it loops around again and it just becomes funny, not legitimately mean or condescending.