Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Who Believes In Magic?

I am getting ready for two research projects, one for a class in research methods and one that I am doing independently to help my chances to get into graduate school. My independent research, having to do with reasoning and logic in preschoolers, led me to a review of research on how the belief in magic is dependent on age. The study was Magical thinking in judgments of causation: Can anomalous phenomena affect ontological causal beliefs in children and adults? and can be found in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology Vol 22(1), Mar 2004, pp. 123-152 if you are interested in reading it.

This study’s participants were ages 4, 5, 6, 9 and adult. It seems that younger kids (4 and 5) would retain their belief of magic even after an event was explained. Those 6 and older “denied that magic could happen in real life” but then the study’s blurb says this “The data of this study suggest that in the modern industrialized world, magical beliefs persist but are disguised to fit the dominant scientific paradigm.” (From PsychInfo)

Of course, this is from a psychological developmental point of view and suggests that we stop thinking about events as “magic” and look for our explanations within science. But that last sentence seems to imply that even after we “grow up” we still have an underlying belief in the “magic” of events but instead use more scientific words to fit in with today’s world.

Has the word “science” been replaced by the word “magic” or “superstition” as our way of understanding events? Granted, the words magic and science have totally different meanings today. But this makes me wonder how someone from times past would look at some of the things we are studying within the context of science. Would they still believe in magic if they were given the scientific explanation?

This study made me think of the Pagan belief in magic and what that means in context to this study. I think there are many more adults in the world that believe in magic (but maybe in a slightly different context that the subject of this study) than this study lets on.


Rubicon said...

y'know I do think, that as adults, we believe in magic even among the most ardent "non-believers". We fascinated by magic at any age even if we don't admit it; we feel disappointed when something magical turns out to have mundane origins.

Shawn Anthony said...

You raise an interesting point - how much of today's definitions/understandings of language and/or words (like "Magic") are superimposed onto yesterday's understanding and conceptual definitions? Often we accept/debunk things according to an improper superimposition of definitions. Interesting.