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date: 12 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the concept of magical thinking and how this form of thought develops over the course of childhood and is maintained in adulthood. Rather than assuming magical thinking to be a remnant of childhood and an immature mind, it is suggested that a number of universal cognitive processes lead to the emergence of magical thinking in early childhood and its maintenance into adulthood. This chapter suggests that magical thinking reaches a peak in childhood partly because of the emergence of pretense and imagination as well as substantial cultural support for magical beliefs in children. Although this form of thinking declines somewhat in later childhood and adulthood, unconscious cognitive processes serve to maintain magical thinking throughout the life span. The chapter also explores the relation between magical thinking and religious thoughts and beliefs, superstition, and other forms of strange beliefs in adulthood.

Keywords: cognitive biases, cognitive development, essentialism, magical belief, magical thinking, similarity and contagion

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