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The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane
     

The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

4.8 6
by Matthew Hutson
 

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In this witty and perceptive debut, a former editor at Psychology Today shows us how magical thinking makes life worth living.

Psychologists have documented a litany of cognitive biases- misperceptions of the world-and explained their positive functions. Now, Matthew Hutson shows us that even the most hardcore skeptic indulges in magical thinking

Overview

In this witty and perceptive debut, a former editor at Psychology Today shows us how magical thinking makes life worth living.

Psychologists have documented a litany of cognitive biases- misperceptions of the world-and explained their positive functions. Now, Matthew Hutson shows us that even the most hardcore skeptic indulges in magical thinking all the time-and it's crucial to our survival.

Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Hutson shows us that magical thinking has been so useful to us that it's hardwired into our brains. It encourages us to think that we actually have free will. It helps make us believe that we have an underlying purpose in the world. It can even protect us from the paralyzing awareness of our own mortality. In other words, magical thinking is a completely irrational way of making our lives make rational sense.

With wonderfully entertaining stories, personal reflections, and sharp observations, Hutson reveals our deepest fears and longings. He also assures us that it is no accident his surname contains so many of the same letters as this imprint.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this sprightly pop-psychology treatise, Hutson roots our most pixilated notions in extensions and overgeneralizations of the same mental processes that cope with cold reality. The brain’s penchant for recognizing patterns, he contends, prompts us to discern God’s mysterious ways behind random misfortunes and correlate superstitious rituals with lucky happenstances. Our biologically programmed ideas about contagion invests inanimate objects with the auras of celebrities who touched them. Our socially adaptive attunement to human mental states makes us think nature is suffused with conscious intent, and imagine that our minds can telekinetically move the world. And our capacity for abstract thought lets even atheists have faith in a symbolic afterlife. Hutson’s lucid and entertaining treatment blends brain science, evolutionary theory, and cultural commentary on everything from spells and amulets to the rap duo Insane Clown Posse. He’s not exactly a believer, but he sees the psychological and social value in people believing themselves to be magically lucky, empowered, and connected to a caring and morally responsive universe. This illuminating exploration of the science of unscientific convictions by a former news editor at Psychology Today nicely balances bemused skepticism with warm appreciation for the mind’s fanciful, functional creativity. (Apr.)
Kirkus Reviews
A breezy, middling work of pop psych, working an obvious thesis to obvious ends. Poor dumb humans. We cling to sentimental objects such as wedding rings, think we can beat the odds at Vegas and believe in justice and the karmic rule that what goes around comes around. Well, writes former Psychology Today news editor Hutson, that's the way we're wired, so just "chillax." There's nothing new in the observation that human thought is shot through with irrationality, that we tend to invest objects with magical properties, or that we harbor unreasonable beliefs. But what does it tell us about ourselves that companies can make a pretty penny selling packets of soil from Jerusalem? That we're a superstitious people, as superstitious as our forebears, who bought and sold holy relics for ages. And that we believe that actions have distant consequences? That's not quite so silly, given what we know of chaos theory, difficult science that evades analysis here. There is danger, of course, in thinking too symbolically, as Hutson notes; we have only to consider the figure of Don Quixote, who is himself a walking symbol. But how many of us live the life of Walter Mitty? There's some utility in the author's underlying program of skepticism, considering the flim-flam artists who work the fringes of the paranormal and New Age worlds, but it's not quite satisfactory to adduce the "law of truly large numbers" to explain the simple fact that there's a sucker born every minute. Given that no one can really escape from thinking magically, this book really should be called simply The 7 Laws of Thinking. No competition against meatier books on the mind from the likes of Sacks, Damasio, Hofstadter, Ariely and others.
Paul Bloom
 “In this wickedly funny and deeply clever book, Matthew Hutson makes a radical claim: All of us, whether we accept it or not, believe in magic. Without these intuitions, he says, we would hardly be human. Through vivid examples and cutting-edge science, Hutson presents a provocative new theory of how we make sense of the world.”
Ori Brafman
 This is a book that you pick up, but can’t put down. Hutson, intelligently and entertainingly, gives us the best kind of book: one that gives us insight to our very core. Highly recommended!”
Sharon Begley
 “Matthew Hutson promises to convince the most hard-core skeptics and rationalists that they believe in magic, and he succeeds—with wit and clarity and scientific rigor.”
From the Publisher
 “In this wickedly funny and deeply clever book, Matthew Hutson makes a radical claim: All of us, whether we accept it or not, believe in magic. Without these intuitions, he says, we would hardly be human. Through vivid examples and cutting-edge science, Hutson presents a provocative new theory of how we make sense of the world.” — Paul Bloom, Ph.D. author of Descartes’ Baby and How Pleasure Works

 This is a book that you pick up, but can’t put down. Hutson, intelligently and entertainingly, gives us the best kind of book: one that gives us insight to our very core. Highly recommended!” — Ori Brafman, co-author of Sway and Click

 “Matthew Hutson promises to convince the most hard-core skeptics and rationalists that they believe in magic, and he succeeds—with wit and clarity and scientific rigor.” — Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594630873
Publisher:
Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date:
04/12/2012
Pages:
304
Product dimensions:
6.22(w) x 9.08(h) x 1.23(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

Paul Bloom
 “In this wickedly funny and deeply clever book, Matthew Hutson makes a radical claim: All of us, whether we accept it or not, believe in magic. Without these intuitions, he says, we would hardly be human. Through vivid examples and cutting-edge science, Hutson presents a provocative new theory of how we make sense of the world.”
Ori Brafman
 This is a book that you pick up, but can’t put down. Hutson, intelligently and entertainingly, gives us the best kind of book: one that gives us insight to our very core. Highly recommended!”
Alan Lightman
With wit and respect for both the rational and the irrational, Hutson reveals the pervasiveness of superstition and "magical thinking," even among people who consider themselves totally rational, and further makes a compelling argument that irrational beliefs are actually necessary for our mental accommodation to this strange universe we find ourselves in. (Alan Lightman, author of Einstein's Dreams)
Sharon Begley
 “Matthew Hutson promises to convince the most hard-core skeptics and rationalists that they believe in magic, and he succeeds—with wit and clarity and scientific rigor.”

Meet the Author

A former news editor at Psychology Today, Matthew Hutson has a BS in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and an MS in science writing from MIT. He has written for Discover, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American Mind, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in New York City. Visit magicalthinkingbook.com.

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7 Laws of Magical Thinking 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This entertaining work explains (albeit superficially) how and why we behave in irrational ways, and shows how this "magical thinking" is both necessary and -- in endearing ways -- laudable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The blind dog walked around the streets. He didn't know wher to go because he wasn't welcome anywhere. Where his peaople had gone, he didn't know. But the one thing he did know was his name. <p> And his name was Squiggles, the blind German Shepard.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She rolled around, wiggling her legs in the leg braces on the dolley thingie. ~Vanellope
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He looked out the window at the dog vreaching his arm out* Doggy!