Magical Thinking: Concept And Features

Magical thinking is a fascinating, human phenomenon. Read on to explore what magical thinking is and why it is not always bad to believe in something that is not true.
Magical thinking: Concept and features

Roald Dahl said that “those who do not believe in magic will never find it”. Interestingly, humans have always had a tendency to believe in magic. The topic of today’s article, magical thinking, stems from the human belief in the inexplicable.

We believe in the law of cause and effect. Therefore, when something without scientific explanation happens, people come up with another “magical” explanation for it. In fact, that may be why religions have survived over the years, despite the relentless scientific advances.

What is magical thinking?

Psychology and anthropology define magical thinking as the description of illogical attributes for certain causes, without any empirical evidence.

This phenomenon is particularly relevant when a person believes that his or her magical thoughts may have consequences for the external world. Such consequences may stem from the person’s actions or actions from supernatural forces.

Almost every society in the world has magical thoughts. Magical thinking is a natural and, presumably, biological process.

Woman thinking

It is easy to find examples of magical thinking. A child thinks that if he or she behaves badly, a man in a suit will come and kidnap him or her. Certain cultures perform ritualistic dances to make it rain or give the air a higher power.

Reasons for magical thinking

  • Relationship between events. Creating special associations, such as believing that a friend dumped a test because you wished he or she would not pass.
  • Associative tanker. Establishing relationships based on similarities. For example, believing that the soul of an animal will enter your body if you eat its heart.

While these contexts are not true, they can serve an important function in people’s lives. Here are two reasons why magical thinking is sometimes useful:

  • Magical thinking reduces anxiety. It can give you a greater sense of control if you associate stressful and problematic situations with arbitrary causes. As a result, you feel less anxiety. An example is using amulets to protect yourself from something you are afraid of.
  • The placebo effect. If you think it will cure a disease if you perform a certain ritual or say a certain prayer, then it may possibly do this.

Character traits for magical thinking

People have magical thoughts almost every day because it, often, makes them feel better. However, the problem arises when magical thinking creates concerns, or when this short-term relief becomes a long-term problem.

Egocentrism in children

Children between the ages of 2 and 7 (in the pre-operative phase) sometimes think that they, voluntarily or involuntarily, have the power to change the world with their minds. They have difficulty understanding abstract concepts.

It is almost impossible for children of that age not to think that they are the center of the universe. For example, they may think that something bad would happen to their parents because they wished something bad would happen to someone.

As a result, children can, at times, take the blame for things they have absolutely nothing to do with. This kind of egocentrism usually disappears as they get older.

Child pointing to imaginary animations


Superstition and belief in the supernatural is quite common in our society. For example, in the Western world, the number 13 means accidents, while the Japanese people believe that the number 4 brings accidents.

These numbers are significant in our collective consciousness. Athletes will therefore not use these numbers on their jerseys and people do not want to live on these floors in apartment complexes.


Magical thinking is also characteristic of psychotic or schizophrenic illusions.

After all, magical thinking is a form of defense mechanism. When you have to deal with something you cannot explain, your brain searches for a context that will soothe the anxiety that stems from your insecurity. It does not matter if the connection is true, because the important thing is that you get better.

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