Magical Beliefs and Psychological Defense

Eugene Subbotsky

in Magic and the Mind

Published in print March 2010 | ISBN: 9780195393873
Published online May 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199776979 | DOI:
Magical Beliefs and Psychological Defense

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Chapter 10 (“Magical Beliefs and Psychological Defense”) considers defense strategies that people use to protect themselves against magical suggestion. Indeed, being totally vulnerable to suggestion would mean living in an unsafe world that lacks order and predictability. Experiments are presented and discussed that show some of these strategies. For example, cognitive defense against magical suggestion is demonstrated in the experiment when participants involuntarily distort the order of events that happened in their full view just a few seconds before, with the aim to discard a magical (impossible) event and reinterpret it as an ordinary (possible) event. A more effective emotional defense was observed when participants (graduate and undergraduate students) were asked to select a practical task that they would like to improve on (such as writing essays or speaking foreign languages) and then it was magically suggested that they would improve on it. In 2 weeks' time, in the magical suggestion condition, a significantly larger number of participants reported having no improvement than in the control condition, in which no suggestion had been made.

Keywords: magical beliefs; psychological defense; suggestion; dreams; subconsciousness

Chapter.  6417 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Cognitive Psychology

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