Lucky McDaniel's technique of instruction was described to a number of scientists and resulted in a number of very tentative hypotheses to explain it. Most explanations suggested that hypnotism might be a factor, though not necessarily the kind in which a person is overtly put into a trance.
There is a more subtle stage of hypnotism, most often called "suggestion." Dr. Donald B. Douglas of the Psychiatric Institute, New York City, defined suggestion as a state in which the subject's unconscious mind willingly follows instructions from another person, suspending all volition, because the subject wants to be persuaded. And who, indeed, would not want to be persuaded that he can shoot like Wild Bill Hickok? On the other hand, who would not want to be persuaded that he can hit a golf ball like Sam Snead, and how many golf pros are turning out Sam Sneads these days? The point about McDaniel is that he, unlike the golf pros, is able to teach anyone, even grossly handicapped persons, astonishing accuracy in an astonishingly short time.
Dr. Henry Makover, Professor of Preventive Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, speaking very informally, thought there might be still another explanation not necessarily involving hypnosis.
"In all forms of athletics," he said, "there are moments, sometimes whole days, in which an individual is capable of giving a physical performance within his sport, which, for him, is almost impossible generally. [Every golfer knows such days.] At a particular time, for a reason which we do not know, all physical coordinative elements of the individual may function together in a manner which permits a performance many times the individual's normal ability."
At this point Dr. Makover, who never has met McDaniel, uttered a precise paraphrase of what McDaniel says.
"Within most people," to put it Dr. Makover's way, "there is a physical potential far greater than that which is realized in normal activity."
The way McDaniel puts it is this: "We see more than we think we see. Our senses know more than we do."
Or, to return to Dr. Makover: "There exists, I believe, in the general population a greater potential for accuracy than is realized, but for a number of reasons...this potential cannot be exploited at all times. It is conceivable that McDaniel, wittingly or unwittingly, has discovered a technique of exploitation of this faculty which functions in the majority of people on whom he experiments."
McDaniel says that "the power of suggestion" is a factor in his teaching. And he also says that everyone is capable of far greater feats than he is aware of. A McDaniel come to judgment maintains that he can condition a man's reflexes to a point where he is able to realize his capacities.
So, too, say the Zen Buddhists, whose adepts perform astonishing feats of archery, like extinguishing a candle while blindfolded. Then, to delve perhaps more shallowly into the esoteric, there is Dr. Joseph B. Rhine of Duke University and his notions about psychokinesis—the ability of the mind to influence the actions of such objects as dice. That, of course, has more to do with crapshooting than bird shooting.