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Magic and the MindMechanisms, Functions, and Development of Magical Thinking and Behavior$
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Eugene Subbotsky

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195393873

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195393873.001.0001

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Magical Thinking and Beliefs Across the Lifespan: A Summary

Magical Thinking and Beliefs Across the Lifespan: A Summary

(p.163) 12 Magical Thinking and Beliefs Across the Lifespan: A Summary
Magic and the Mind

Eugene Subbotsky

Oxford University Press

Chapter 12 (“Magical Thinking and Beliefs Across the Lifespan: A Summary”) gives an overview the data reviewed in the book and presents a new theory about the development of magical thinking and behavior across the lifespan. Initially, belief in magic was viewed as a phenomenon specific to childhood. Increasingly, however, it has been argued that magical beliefs, while diminishing in older children's and adults' verbal judgments, can persist in their behavioral responses. In light of research discussed in this book, it can be argued that the development of magical beliefs conforms to a more complex model. Chased by science and religion, children's early magical beliefs descend into the subconscious. Most adults consistently deny such beliefs. They also develop a fear of magical intervention that results in the psychological defense mechanisms. In spite of this, under certain circumstances, magical beliefs are consciously accepted. One form of admitting magical beliefs into one's consciousness while not contradicting the dominant scientific paradigm at the same time is curiosity and exploration. Another form of “legal existence” of magical beliefs is transformation and disguise: by throwing off their explicit link with magic, certain mechanisms of magical thinking survive today under pseudonyms such as fear of contagion, feelings of disgust, and, in communicative magic, obedience, conformity, and suggestibility.

Keywords:   magical thinking, magical beliefs, magical behavior, subconsciousness, cognitive development, lifespan

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