A Scientific Look at Magical Thinking

August 14th, 2012 § 0 comments

In the Big Think video below, science journalist Matthew Hutson discusses magical thinking from a non-magical, scientific perspective.

Hutson is the author of 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. His definition of magical thinking is,

an attribution of mental properties to non-mental phenomena, or vice versa.

What he means by this is a world view that sees natural events or objects as having within them some element of mind or consciousness.

In addition it could mean having the perception that one’s own mental processes can physically influence the world directly.

Rather then simply poo poo these ideas, Hutson tries to look at why they’re so prevalent across time and cultures, and how they affect our species for good and for ill.

In the interview below, Hutson makes the case that humans are hard-wired to see the world somewhat magically. And though he recommends the practice of active scepticism, he sees the value in keeping a little magic alive.

As a proud Tarot reading skeptical mystic and frequent magical thinker, I’m very interested in all discussions surrounding this topic. I’m going to have to get his book.

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