• Researchers generally receive little training in experimental deception.
• Drawing on the field of magic, we present a novel model of effective deception.
• First, deception should have many “layers” rather than a single cover story.
• Second, these layers should be subtle rather than explicitly stated.
• We provide strategies for improving deception and thus the reliability of research.
Magicians have theorised that if tricks are too smooth and perfect, they end up seeming less impressive than ones with minor flaws (Kuhn, 2019).