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Mentalism is the term generally accepted as encompassing feats of the mind. These include reading, influencing and predicting the thoughts of others. In the case of predicting - or precognition - mentalists have been known to extend this beyond the choices of others to events in the wider world. Another aspect of mentalism is Psychokinesis which involves affecting inanimate objects with the mind. Examples of this include making objects move without touching them and bending metal such as keys and spoons.

The basics of modern mentalism were refined with the birth of modern Spiritualism in the 1850s.

Mentalists differ from magicians in that they typically present their demonstrations as legitimate. Certainly audiences are often far more open to the idea that they are genuine, due in part to the lack of props employed in performances. Some mentalists make the distinction between mentalism and mental magic, with the former involving few to no props and no magical occurrences. The latter may make use of items such as cards and similar items, with the effects performed having a magical element to them. An example of mental magic is Derren Brown's "Smoke" in which the performer divines the name of a merely thought-of card, which subsequently disappears from the tabled deck and is seen to have taken the place of the cigarette the performer has been smoking, suitably charred.

In recent years mentalism has seen a popularization, thanks largely to Derren Brown, who debuted on British television in 1999 with his show Mind Control. Proclaiming the use of Psychological techniques such as suggestion and hypnosis this lead many performers to study and adopt a similar approach to their mentalism. It is worth noting, however, that the use of psychology as a presentation is not new.

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