Thursday, January 25, 2007


Magical Thinking: Why Do People Cling to Odd Rituals?

`[..] New research demonstrates that habits of so-called magical thinking – the belief, for instance, that wishing harm on a loathed colleague or relative might make him sick – are far more common than people acknowledge.

These habits have little to do with religious faith, which is much more complex because it involves large questions of morality, community and history. But magical thinking underlies a vast, often unseen universe of small rituals that accompany people through every waking hour of a day.

The appetite for such beliefs appears to be rooted in the circuitry of the brain, and for good reason. The sense of having special powers buoys people in threatening situations, and helps soothe everyday fears and ward off mental distress. [..]

The brain seems to have networks that are specialized to produce an explicit, magical explanation in some circumstances, said Pascal Boyer, a professor of psychology and anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.’

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