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Magical thinking in judgments of causation : can anomalous phenomena affect ontological causal beliefs in children and adults?

Subbotsky, Eugene (2004) Magical thinking in judgments of causation : can anomalous phenomena affect ontological causal beliefs in children and adults? British Journal of Developmental Psychology, 22 (1). pp. 123-152. ISSN 0261-510X

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Abstract

In four experiments, 4-, 5-, 6- and 9-year-old children and adults were tested on the entrenchment of their magical beliefs and their beliefs in the universal power of physical causality. In Experiment 1, even 4-year-olds showed some understanding of the difference between ordinary and anomalous (magical) causal events, but only 6-year-olds and older participants denied that magic could occur in real life. When shown an anomalous causal event (a transformation of a physical object in an apparently empty box after a magic spell was cast on the box), 4- and 6-year-olds accepted magical explanations of the event, whereas 9-year-olds and adults did not. In Experiment 2, the same patterns of behaviour as above were shown by 6- and 9-year-olds who demonstrated an understanding of the difference between genuine magical events and similarly looking tricks. Testing the entrenchment of magical beliefs in this experiment showed that 5-year-olds tended to retain their magical explanations of the anomalous event, even after the mechanism of the trick had been explained to them, whereas 6-and 9-year-olds did not. In Experiment 3, adult participants refused to accept magical explanations of the anomalous event and interpreted it as a trick or an illusion, even after this event was repeated 4 times. Yet, when in Experiment 4 similar anomalous causal events were demonstrated without reference to magic, most adults acknowledged, both in their verbal judgments and in their actions, that the anomalous effects were not a fiction but had really occurred. The data of this study suggest that in the modern industrialized world, magical beliefs persist but are disguised to fit the dominant scientific paradigm.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: British Journal of Developmental Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Faculty of Science and Technology > Psychology
ID Code: 26927
Deposited By: Dr Eugene Subbotsky
Deposited On: 18 Aug 2009 15:23
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 16:37
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/26927

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