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Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

3.81  ·  Rating Details ·  63 Ratings  ·  11 Reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published April 24th 1997 by Oxford University Press, USA
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Peter Mcloughlin
Superstition is a part of Human Nature. We are constantly looking for patterns in a chaotic world. Natural Selection has endowed us with an overactive patternicity detector for our survival. The hunter gatherer who heard a rustle in the grass who assumed it was the wind instead of imagining a tiger was some animals lunch a long time ago. The side effect of course is we see patterns, enact behaviors and imagine connections that are not there at all. Superstition is the side effect of our pattern ...more
Jun 18, 2014 Marc rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Marc by: Andre
Psychology of Superstition really should have been the title rather than the subtitle. It is an academic treatment. This literature has always been hard for me to read. The author tends to state the same things over and over in different ways. As I was not really needing convincing on the basic premise, it did bog down somewhat for me. Some of the evolutionary hand-waving arguments supposedly supporting the author's assertions were a bit annoying to me-they are common from this profession and I ...more
Anne Fabing
Oct 23, 2014 Anne Fabing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book describes the history of magic as precursor to science and a companion to religion when many things could not be explained. It explains how common coincidence is with the little know "Law of Truly Large Numbers." I was not aware of the interesting background of superstition and how likely you are to be one based on your personality. And unless you really understand math and statistics, much of random or natural events like earthquakes, getting cancer or even meeting your soul mate are ...more
Aug 15, 2012 Greg rated it liked it
To an extent, these books can merge into one, there is only so much information to cover, even if different books will cover different aspects. This one, though slim was pretty information dense. "Believing in magi" is probably a bit of a deceptive title, the subtitle "the Psychology of Superstition" more accurately describes the book. As is usually the case, I was familiar with some of the examples, but other examples were new to me, and I did gain some insight into such beliefs and how they ...more
Mar 10, 2013 Clayton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent book about the psychology of superstition. I have read a couple of other books on this topic and this is by far the better book. The critical analysis and history of psychological studies related to superstition make it a fun and thought provoking book.
Jul 15, 2007 Sabio rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Theists, Free Thinkers
Vyse explores how humans think magically -- about EVERYTHING, not just religion. This, and works like it, help undercut our normal perceptions of who we are -- so be careful !
Science For The People
Recommended on Skeptically Speaking show #90 on December 17, 2010.
Curtis Harris
Sep 01, 2012 Curtis Harris rated it it was amazing
This is it. It is way better than Why People Believe Weird Things. Anyone remotely interested in critical thinking should read this.
Nov 10, 2014 Allison rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt like the author was just rambling on about nothing. The last half of the book could have been removed. Most of it had nothing to do with superstitions. The first half was better.
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Stuart Vyse is a behavioral scientist, teacher, and writer. He writes the monthly “Behavior & Belief” column for Skeptical Inquirer and personal essays in a variety of places—lately for the Observer, Medium, The Atlantic, The Good Men Project, and Tablet. He also blogs very sporadically for Psychology Today.

Vyse's book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition won the William James Bo
More about Stuart A. Vyse...

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