Culture and Magical Thinking

Eugene Subbotsky

in Magic and the Mind

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195393873
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199776979 | DOI:
Culture and Magical Thinking

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In Chapter 6 (“Culture and Magical Thinking”), social and cultural factors in adults' magical beliefs are considered. With reference to relevant studies, the point is made that despite fundamental changes in cultural beliefs about the structure of the world in the last centuries, it can be the case that an average Western individual, at a certain level, remains relatively unaffected by these changes. For instance, the official culture and education can become increasingly dominated by beliefs in the overwhelming power of science and technology, yet many individuals in this culture can still entertain causal beliefs that are incompatible with scientific views. In this case, the individual can only be superficially affected by the changes in culture. On the level of intuitive beliefs, however, many contemporary Western individuals are not crucially different from individuals of the earlier historic epochs in their tendency to accept beliefs in magic and the supernatural. Experiments are presented that examine this hypothesis in a cross-cultural study in which magical beliefs in Mexico (a culture that has traditionally been tolerant of magical beliefs) and Britain were compared.

Keywords: cross-cultural studies; magical thinking; reflective and intuitive beliefs; culture and consciousness

Chapter.  3285 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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