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

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

A provocative and entertaining look at the psychology of superstition and religion, how they make us human—and how we can use them to our advantage

What is so special about touching a piano John Lennon once owned? Why do we yell at our laptops? And why do people like to say, “Everything happens for a reason”? Drawing on cognitive science, anthropology, and neuroscience, Matthew Hutson shows us that magical thinking is not only hardwired into our brains—it’s been a factor in our evolutionary success. Magical thinking helps us believe that we have free will and an underlying purpose as it protects us from the paralyzing awareness of our own mortality. Interweaving entertaining stories, personal reflections, and sharp observations, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking reveals just how this seemingly irrational process informs and improves the lives of even the most hardened skeptics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780452298903
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/26/2013
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 396,446
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

 Matthew Hutson has a BS in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and an MS in science journalism from MIT. He lives in New York City.

Table of Contents

Introduction: We're All Believers 1

1 Objects Carry Essences: Cooties, Contagion, and Historicity 11

2 Symbols Have Power: Spells, Ceremonies, and the Law of Similarity 37

3 Actions Have Distant Consequences: Using Superstition to Make Luck Work for You 61

4 The Mind Knows No Bounds: Psychokinesis, ESP, and Transcendence 93

5 The Soul Lives On: Death Is Not the End of Us 125

6 The World Is Alive: Animals, Objects, and Gods Are People, Too 163

7 Everything Happens for a Reason: You've Got a Date with Destiny 195

Epilogue: The World Is Sacred: A Stab at a Secular Spirituality Spirituality 239

Acknowledgments 251

Notes 253

Further Reading and Selected Bibliography 283

Index 287

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. You might think yourself immune to magical thinking, but if you treasure your grandmother's wedding ring (or any other item with 'sentimental value') more than an identical copy, if you have ever told yourself that an illness or setback was meant to be, if you think an item owned by a celebrity has more value than the same thing without the provenance, if you think the Yankees were right to dig up the David Ortiz jersey that a construction worker had secretly buried in their new stadium, or if you prefer to pick your own lottery numbers rather than taking what a machine chooses for you—then you, too, are guilty as charged. (Sharon Begley, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain)

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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!