Magical Thinking Summary

(also known as: superstitious thinking)

Description: Making causal connections or correlations between two events not based on logic or evidence, but primarily based on superstition.  Magical thinking often causes one to experience irrational fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because they assume a correlation with their acts and threatening calamities.

Logical Form:

Event A occurs.

Event B occurs.

Because of superstition or magic, event A is causally connected to or correlated with event B.

Example #1:

Mr. Governor issues a proclamation for the people of his state to pray for rain.  Several months later, it rains.  Praise the gods!

Explanation: Suggesting that appealing to the gods for rain via prayer or dance is just the kind of thing crazy enough to get you elected president of the United States, but there is absolutely no logical reason or evidence to support the claim that appealing to the gods will make it rain.

Example #2:

I refuse to stay on the 13th floor of any hotel because it is bad luck.  However, I don’t mind staying on the same floor as long as we call it the 14th floor.

Explanation: This demonstrates the kind of magical thinking that so many people engage in, that, according to Dilip Rangnekar of Otis Elevators, an estimated 85% of buildings with elevators did not have a floor numbered “13”.  There is zero evidence that the number 13 has any property that causes bad luck — of course, it is the superstitious mind that connects that number with bad luck.

Example #3:

I knew I should have helped that old lady across the road.  Because I didn’t, I have been having bad Karma all day.

Explanation: This describes how one who believes that they deserve bad fortune, will most likely experience it due to the confirmation bias and other self-fulfilling prophecy-like behavior.  Yet there is no logical or rational basis behind the concept of Karma.

Exception: If you can empirically prove your magic, then you can use your magic to reason.

What Now: Magical thinking may be comforting at times, but reality is always what’s true.


Hutson, M. (2012). The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane. Penguin.