Believing in Magic

Believing in Magic : The Psychology of Superstition

3.82 (78 ratings by Goodreads)
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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 behaviou ral research to demonstrate how complex and paradoxical human behaviour 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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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 145 x 220 x 20mm | 390.09g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • line figures and tables
  • 0195136349
  • 9780195136340
  • 1,539,879

Review quote

Professor Vyse presents the historical, sociocultural, and psychological basis for superstition in a clear, interesting, and even entertaining way. What easily could have been a dry, over-intellectualized tome is, instead, a gem of a book that engaginly tells the story of what science has learned about superstition, of how pervasive and powerful superstition can be, and of why critical thinking skills are so important in everyday life. Douglas A. Bernstein, Professor of Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign Many books deal with irrational beliefs but have little to say about why people cling to superstitions...and what can be done to stem the rising tide of interest in pseudoscience and the paranormal. Professor Vyse has filled this vacuum with a book as entertaining as it is enlightening. Martin Gardner This book can be rewritten or updated every fifteen years, I believe, since new claptrap presents itself every day. And there are always victims out there ready to surrender their common sense for a talisman...or a ritual that puts them 'in' with their peers and gives them the warm glow of being avant-garde. Meanwhile, I urge the rationalists out there to snap up this book when they see it. It may be heading for the bonfires. James Randi, The James Randi Educational Foundation, Fort Lauderdale, Florida Employing scientific techniques and utilizing hard facts, Vyse shows how silly superstition really is... This is a highly informative book, dealing with everything from chain letters to lucky charms to the lottery system. Amazon Vyse presents plenty of uncomfortable truths about the way most of us think, and plumbs a vast literary repetoire ranging from Chaucer and Melville through Leon Festinger (the author of the theory of cognitive dissonance)to get us into his corner. Voice Literary Supplement An engaging introduction to psychology focused on a topic, superstition, of inherent interest to us all. Valerie M. Chase, The Boston Book Review
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About Stuart A. Vyse

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

78 ratings
3.82 out of 5 stars
5 28% (22)
4 38% (30)
3 24% (19)
2 5% (4)
1 4% (3)
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