All About Magic

Think you don't believe in magic? Think again. Our brains are designed to pick up on patterns: Making connections helped our ancestors survive. You're not crazy if you're fond of jinxes, lucky charms, premonitions, wish fulfillment, or karma. You're just human.

Recent posts on Magical Thinking

The Psychology of Expectations

By John A. Johnson Ph.D. on February 17, 2018 in Cui Bono
"What's wrong with expecting people to do what is right? Don't I have a right to feel resentful when they don't?" Find out what is wrong with that kind of thinking.

The Language User's Quick Start Guide

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on February 12, 2018 in Ambigamy
Humans are the bulls in the China shop of the world. Why? Because we have language. Here's a short video on how to use it wisely.

Hardening of the Smarteries

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on February 10, 2018 in Ambigamy
Cultishness is not a product of what you believe but how you clutch and strut it. Here's a test for figuring out who has gone cultish with a few comments on why people do.

Feeling Lucky?

By Stephen A. Diamond Ph.D. on February 09, 2018 in Evil Deeds
Do we really make our own luck?

Delusions of Deterrence

By David P. Barash Ph.D. on February 05, 2018 in Peace and War
Even many people who should know better wear intellectual blinders when it comes to nuclear deterrence, and we are all worse off as a result.
Wikimedia Commons

On Religious Certainty, Violence and War

How is it that the people who hold the highest ideals of love and brotherhood fall prey to divisiveness and hatred? What is it about religion that pairs it so closely to violence?

Why I Hate Star Wars

By Eric Dietrich Ph.D. on January 30, 2018 in Excellent Beauty
Star Wars succeeds because humans are primates. Our evolution was accomplished by wicked and powerful short-term magical and selfish thinking.

The Winchester Mystery House and Other Haunted Places

By Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D. on January 29, 2018 in Out of the Ooze
Ghosts seem to have very specific preferences for where they take up residence-–why?

R & Deism: A Religious Fable Children's Story

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on January 25, 2018 in Ambigamy
Though I happen to be an atheist, I'm human and therefore prone to fantasy and delusion. Here's a healthy delusion I've crafted for those who believe in a higher power or God.

What Inflates Investment Manias?

By Nigel Barber Ph.D. on January 25, 2018 in The Human Beast
Bitcoin and other crypto currencies may belong with the dot-com boom, and much earlier manias such as the South Sea bubble and tulip mania.

Superstitious Learning and Groundhog Day

By Ryan Smerek, Ph.D. on January 19, 2018 in Learning at Work
How can we recognize and promote valid learning in organizations?

Let's Commend Fact-Based Thinking: Except With Alcohol

By Stanton Peele Ph.D. on January 17, 2018 in Addiction in Society
Kurt Andersen hates irrationality, except when it comes to alcohol.

You've Got the Magic Touch

If you're a hardcore NPR listener like I am, you may have heard the Morning Edition show with Michelle Trudeau talking about the health-promoting properties of touch.

Why Do People Believe in Conspiracy Theories?

By David Ludden Ph.D. on January 06, 2018 in Talking Apes
Belief in conspiracy theories can satisfy important psychological needs for some people. We need to understand this first before confronting a believer with facts.

Insects Are the Canaries In Our Coal Mine

We may loathe many of them, but it will be much harder to feed us if they are gone.

How to Win Mindless Loyalty

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on December 28, 2017 in Ambigamy
Wouldn't it be fun to have people who think you're right no matter what you think or do? A little dangerous, perhaps, but fun. Here's how to get it.

Superstition: Quirky Beliefs or Psychopathology?

Is superstition just anxiety in disguise?

Adaptation? It's Way Different For Humans

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on December 21, 2017 in Ambigamy
Adaptation—good fit to reality—is as old as life but very different for humans given our power of language. Here we imagine a beginner's guide for us newfangled language users.

The Lessons of Time Travel in "Dark" and "Twin Peaks"

By Jean Kim M.D. on December 18, 2017 in Culture Shrink
Time travel is popular in recent TV shows like Netflix's "Dark" and "Twin Peaks" and reflects our internal anxiety about death and loss and lack of control in our lives.

On Accepting the Truth About Our Own Species

By David P. Barash Ph.D. on December 17, 2017 in Pura Vida
We are indeed special — at least in our own minds. The greater specialness — confirmed by science — is that we're organic and... ordinary!

Santa Claus Is No Longer Coming to Town

Should you be sad when your child discovers the truth? A different way of looking at your child's growing mind.

Moral Relativism Is Tricky, but Smarter Than the Alternative

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on December 09, 2017 in Ambigamy
When push comes to shove, we dig in our heels, pretending that nature or the supernatural stands for what we stand for. That's a problem worth keeping an eye on.

Mental Masturbation Deserves More Appreciation

By Jeremy E Sherman Ph.D. on November 30, 2017 in Ambigamy
We can't help but fantasize, often with great vision often with dangerous delusion. Since right or wrong, fantasy is our human birthright, we have to get good at it. Here's how.

Daughters of Unloving Mothers and the Pull of Fantasy

By Peg Streep on November 13, 2017 in Tech Support
What helps you escape from an unhappy childhood — the power of your imagination — may get in the way of your recovery in adulthood.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Seeing Ghosts in Your Bedroom? It's Sleep Paralysis

By Temma Ehrenfeld on November 07, 2017 in Open Gently
Some people wake up briefly paralyzed, seeing ghosts, or feeling themselves hovering over their bodies. Here's what is probably going on.

Is Science a Religion?

By Eric Dietrich Ph.D. on October 30, 2017 in Excellent Beauty
It is common to hear that science is another religion. This view is wrong in all the ways that matter.

Double, Double Toil and Trouble

By Paul D. Blanc M.D., M.S.P.H. on October 29, 2017 in Household Hazards
Halloween is upon us. As the fake furry spiders and cotton-woolish ersatz webs proliferate, what's really scary is dry ice in decorative pseudo-cauldrons and other misuses.

How the God You Worship Influences the Ghosts You See

By Frank T. McAndrew Ph.D. on October 29, 2017 in Out of the Ooze
While religion may ease our terror of death, it may also increase our chances of being haunted by ghosts and other spirits during our lifetime.

Decide to Be Fine: A Supernatural Contract to Keep Fighting

“Decide to be fine til the end of the week. Make yourself smile because you’re alive and it’s your job. And do it again the next week.” Do no-harm contracts help us keep fighting?

Kid Killers

By Joni E Johnston Psy.D. on October 22, 2017 in The Human Equation
In 2014, two social-media savvy 12 year old girls tried to kill a classmate to appease an imaginary internet horror figure. How typical is this of kids who kill?