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The permanence of mental objects : testing magical thinking on perceived and imaginary realities.

Subbotsky, Eugene (2005) The permanence of mental objects : testing magical thinking on perceived and imaginary realities. Developmental Psychology, 41 (2). pp. 301-318. ISSN 0012-1649

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Abstract

Four experiments compared the permanence of imagined and perceived objects. A new method for assessing object permanence in older children and adults was used that tested participants’ preparedness to acknowledge that an object could change as a result of magical intervention. In Experiment 1, 6- and 9-year-old children and adults treated perceived and imagined objects (pieces of paper) as being equally permanent. In Experiment 2, adults treated a fantastic object (a flying dog) as significantly less permanent than either perceived or imagined objects, but children failed to distinguish between fantastic and imagined objects. Experiment 3 employed a different type of mental-physical causality (an attempt to change objects with the help of a participant’s own wish). Results were similar to those of Experiment 2. In Experiment 4, adults were tested on permanence of personally significant imagined objects (participants’ images of their future lives). Although almost all participants claimed that they did not believe in magic, in test trials they were not prepared to rule out the possibility that their future lives could be affected by a magical curse. The results are used to explain psychological roots of magical thinking and practices. Implications of these findings for cognitive development and more specifically children’s theory of mind reasoning are discussed.

Item Type: Article
Journal or Publication Title: Developmental Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: Faculty of Science and Technology > Psychology
ID Code: 26929
Deposited By: Dr Eugene Subbotsky
Deposited On: 18 Aug 2009 16:26
Refereed?: Yes
Published?: Published
Last Modified: 26 Jul 2012 16:37
Identification Number:
URI: http://eprints.lancs.ac.uk/id/eprint/26929

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