Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition
Stuart A. Vyse
Geoffrey W. Sutton
Are you superstitious? In Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition Stuart Vyse provides a highly readable, informative, and even entertaining look at superstition. Vyse covers a wide variety of superstitions used by children and adults in many cultures but focuses on the charms, beliefs, and rituals prevalent in the United States.
Is superstitious behavior a symptom of mental illness? Vase takes a careful look at mental disorders and explains the differences between superstitious rituals and similar features of major mental disorders like obsessive-compulsive disorder. This chapter deserves a read by mental health professionals.
Superstitious beliefs and behavior patterns are irrational but may serve a role for some people. Thinking about rational and irrational thought and behavior is important to our understanding of superstitions. Vyse helps us understand how a superstition may appear rationale to some.
Although many superstitions are of little consequence, some clearly interfere with well-being. Vase encourages us to consider promoting more scientific thinking so we are more careful when thinking about the true causes of observed phenomenon. Given the recent pandemic, I’m thinking of beliefs about viruses, vaccinations, and effective treatments.
What about religion? Vase sidesteps most of the potential connections to religious beliefs and behavior that may look like superstitions. He does mention faith healing, but says little on the practice.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in superstition. Vase is a gifted writer who is able to present science in an easy-to-understand format. And I hope reading his book may help some enjoy freedom from any distress caused by superstitious beliefs and behavior.
Vyse, S. A. (2014). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition - updated edition. New York: Oxford.
Geoffrey W. Sutton, PhD is Emeritus Professor of Psychology. He retired from a clinical practice and was credentialed in clinical neuropsychology and psychopharmacology. His website is www.suttong.com
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