Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

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Oxford University Press, 2000 - Body, Mind & Spirit - 257 pages
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Although we live in a technologically advanced society, superstition is as widespread as it has ever been. Far from limited to athletes and actors, superstitious beliefs are common among people of all occupations and every educational and income level. Here, Stuart Vyse investigates our proclivity towards these irrational beliefs. Superstitions, he writes, are the natural result of several well-understood psychological processes, including our human sensitivity to coincidence, a penchant for developing rituals to fill time (to battle nerves, impatience, or both), our efforts to cope with uncertainty, the need for control, and more. Vyse examines current behavioral research to demonstrate how complex and paradoxical human behavior can be understood through scientific investigation, while he addresses the personality features associated with superstition and the roles of superstitious beliefs in actions. Although superstition is a normal part of human culture, Vyse argues that we must provide alternative methods of coping with life's uncertainties by teaching decision analysis, promoting science education, and challenging ourselves to critically evaluate the sources of our beliefs.
 

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Contents

Believing in Magic
3
The Superstitious Person
24
Superstition and Coincidence
59
Superstitious Thinking
93
Growing Up Superstitious
139
Is Superstition Abnormal Irrational or Neither?
169
A Magical View of the World
196
Coda
219
Notes
221
References
239
Index
251
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About the author (2000)


Stuart A. Vyse is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Connecticut College.

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