Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition / Edition 1

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Why is superstitious behavior so prevalent? How is this behavior established and maintained? Is there a superstitious personality? How do otherwise rational people come to put their faith in such ephemera? These are the provocative questions that Stuart Vyse addresses in Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition. 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, a fear of failure, our efforts to cope with uncertainty, the need for control, and more. Vyse examines current behavioral research to demonstrate how complex and paradoxical human behavior can be understood through scientific investigation; he explores both the personality traits that make us receptive to superstition, as well as the ways superstitious beliefs can determine our actions. Although superstition is a normal part of our modern 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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Editorial Reviews

Why is there so much interest in the paranormal today? What does psychology tell us about superstition—and the people who subscribe to it? Why do so many athletes and students and others engage in ritualistic behaviors? Why are so many of us attracted to The X Files, horoscopes, and psychic hotlines? What—if anything—should we be doing to counteract these beliefs? Vyse, a psychology professor at Connecticut College, has drawn from research in several disciplines (including psychology, anthropology, and economics) to produce a thought-provoking analysis of modern-day belief in magic. Vyse's lucid prose and sense of humor make the book thoroughly readable and enjoyable. (Who can resist a chance to learn why Wade Boggs eats chicken every day or whether it really is such an unbelievable coincidence when you find that someone in a group shares your birthday? And before you know it you're painlessly following along as Vyse goes into an in-depth explanation of illusory correlations). The bottom line is that while pervasive as superstition may be—much as we might like to believe that playing a particular lottery number is bound to make us instant millionaires—there's nothing like good, clear, critical thinking. Vyse makes an excellent case for the importance of promoting science literacy in a modern world where scientists tend not to be the ones writing novels or making movies (while, conversely, the novelists and film producers who wield such power over popular thought often subscribe to more magical thinking). Lengthy notes and references round out an excellent resource for readers who wish to pursue a particular aspect of the psychology of superstition. Highlyrecommended. KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1997, Oxford Univ. Press, 257p, bibliog, index, 21cm, 96-28082, $14.95. Ages 16 to adult. Reviewer: Gloria Levine; Freelance Education Writer, Potomac, MD, September 2000 (Vol. 34 No. 5)
From the Publisher
"Believing in Magic is 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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195136340
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 5/18/2000
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 7.90 (w) x 5.20 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Meet the Author

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

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Table of Contents

1. Believing in Magic

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