Psychologists and anthropologists have typically turned to faith healers, tribal cultures or New Age spiritualists to study the underpinnings of belief in superstition or magical powers. Yet they could just as well have examined their own neighbors, lab assistants or even some fellow scientists. 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.
Discussion topic: Do people who carry $2 bills for luck, or who watch for 4 leafed clovers, “perpetuate the myth that a person must believe things on insufficient evidence in order to have an ethical and spiritual life”? Do they “refuse to deeply question the preposterous ideas of those who” “fly planes into buildings, or organize their lives around apocalyptic prophecy”?
Is talking to them “like asking someone if they understand science, and they can recite a string of facts at you … but they haven’t absorbed the concept”?