The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

Matthew Hutson. Penguin/Hudson Street, $25.95 (304p) ISBN 978-1-59463-087-3
In this sprightly pop-psychology treatise, Hutson roots our most pixilated notions in extensions and overgeneralizations of the same mental processes that cope with cold reality. The brain’s penchant for recognizing patterns, he contends, prompts us to discern God’s mysterious ways behind random misfortunes and correlate superstitious rituals with lucky happenstances. Our biologically programmed ideas about contagion invests inanimate objects with the auras of celebrities who touched them. Our socially adaptive attunement to human mental states makes us think nature is suffused with conscious intent, and imagine that our minds can telekinetically move the world. And our capacity for abstract thought lets even atheists have faith in a symbolic afterlife. Hutson’s lucid and entertaining treatment blends brain science, evolutionary theory, and cultural commentary on everything from spells and amulets to the rap duo Insane Clown Posse. He’s not exactly a believer, but he sees the psychological and social value in people believing themselves to be magically lucky, empowered, and connected to a caring and morally responsive universe. This illuminating exploration of the science of unscientific convictions by a former news editor at Psychology Today nicely balances bemused skepticism with warm appreciation for the mind’s fanciful, functional creativity. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 10/03/2011
Release date: 04/12/2012
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-1-101-56173-7
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-0-452-29890-3
Paperback - 296 pages - 978-1-85168-934-7
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