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11 Examples of Magical Thinking

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Magical thinking is a type of thought process based on questionable cause and effect relationships. This can lead a person to hold false ideas and make poor decisions. In some cases, magical thinking plays some type of positive role that improves creativity or quality of life. The following are illustrative examples of magical thinking.

Suspension of Disbelief

The practice of putting critical thought on hold in order to experience joy and wonder. This is important to the enjoyment of culture such as storytelling, myth, film, rituals, pastimes, music and performance art. This can be demonstrated by a critic who sees a film's every intellectual and technical flaw who rates it low when the audience rates it high.

Superstition

Superstitions such as the urban legend in Tokyo that couples who rent a boat at the pond in Inokashira Park always end up breaking up. Superstitions may be valued as fun elements of culture. In other cases, they are taken quite seriously.

Illusion of Control

Believing that you have impact on events that you have little or no influence over. For example, a gambler who believes they have a system of lucky numbers.

Technology as Magic

Modern consumers and businesses may view technology much as magic whereby they don't understand how or why it works but expect wonderful or terrible things of it. For example, an executive who buys a sales system may expect that it will boost revenue without being able to explain how.

Regression Fallacy

Unusual events tend to return to normal, a phenomenon known as regression toward the mean. People often mistake their actions as being responsible for unusual events that happened by chance. For example, a young investor who does unusually well on the stock market in their first year may believe that they are an exceptionally good investor. The more probable explanation is that they got lucky and their returns will soon revert back to normal for the level of risk they are taking.

Placebo Effect

The theory that a non-medication such as a sugar pill can cause some level of medical improvement if the patient strongly believes it is a potent medicine. In other words, belief alone may influence things.

Self-Deception

Ignoring evidence that conflicts with your self-image. For example, believing that you are far more wealthy than average when you aren't.

Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy

Reading too much into patterns that are only random chance. For example, if you see three white vans that are driving poorly, coming to the conclusion that all white vans have dangerous drivers. Based on an analogy to a sharpshooter who moves a target to where he shot.

Correlation Equals Causation

Assuming that because two things are correlated that one causes the other. For example, Europeans in the Middle Ages commonly believed that lice where beneficial to health because they left a person when they became sick. The lice were leaving because they are sensitive to temperature and may leave when a person gets a fever.

Creativity

Magical thinking may be useful to creativity. For example, if you are brainstorming ideas it can be useful to be excessively optimistic. This allows for outside ideas to surface that could have significant value. These can latter be validated with a more pessimistic viewpoint.

Synchronicity

Synchronicity are coincidences that have meaning to the observer. For example, a student is thinking about whether to quit school when they receive an unexpected message that they have received a partial scholarship. Analytical psychologist Carl Jung who originated the concept of synchronicity believed they weren't random events but an expression of a deeper order. Synchronicity comes up in physics and mathematics such as dynamic systems theory.
Overview: Magical Thinking
Type
Definition
A type of thought process based on questionable cause and effect relationships.
Related Concepts

Thinking

This is the complete list of articles we have written about thinking.
Abductive Reasoning
Abstract Thinking
Abstraction
Aesthetics
Analogy
Analysis Paralysis
Analytical Thinking
Anomie
Argument
Argument From Silence
Arrow Of Time
Assertions
Automaticity
Backward Induction
Base Rate Fallacy
Benefit Of Doubt
Big Picture
Brainstorming
Call To Action
Catch 22
Causality
Choice Architecture
Circular Reasoning
Cognition
Cognitive Abilities
Cognitive Biases
Cold Logic
Collective Intelligence
Complexity Bias
Concept
Consciousness
Constructive Criticism
Convergent Thinking
Counterfactual Thinking
Creative Tension
Creeping Normality
Critical Thinking
Culture
Curse Of Knowledge
Decision Fatigue
Decision Framing
Decision Making
Defensive Pessimism
Design Thinking
Divergent Thinking
Educated Guess
Emotional Intelligence
Epic Meaning
Essential Complexity
Excluded Middle
Failure Of Imagination
Fallacies
Fallacy Fallacy
False Analogy
False Balance
False Dichotomy
False Equivalence
First Principles
Formal Logic
Four Causes
Fuzzy Logic
Gambler's Fallacy
Generalization
Golden Hammer
Good Judgement
Grey Area
Groupthink
Heuristics
Hindsight Bias
Hope
Idealism
Ideas
If-By-Whiskey
Illogical Success
Imagination
Independent Thinking
Inductive Reasoning
Inference
Influencing
Informal Logic
Information
Information Cascade
Introspection
Intuition
Inventive Step
Learning
Lifestyle
Logic
Logical Argument
Logical Thinking
Ludic Fallacy
Magical Thinking
Meaning
Mental Experiences
Mental State
Mindset
Misuse of Statistics
Motivated Reasoning
Natural Language
Nirvana Fallacy
Norms
Not Even Wrong
Objective Reason
Objectivity
Opinion
Overthinking
Perception
Personal Values
Perspective
Positive Thinking
Practical Thinking
Pragmatism
Premise
Problem Solving
Proof By Example
Propositional Logic
Prosecutor's Fallacy
Radical Chic
Rational Thought
Realism
Reality
Reason
Reasoning
Red Herring
Reflective Thinking
Reification
Relativism
Salience
Scarcity Mindset
Scientism
Selective Attention
Serendipity
Situational Awareness
Sour Grapes
State Of Mind
Storytelling
Subjectivity
Systems Thinking
Thinking
Thought Experiment
Unknown Unknowns
Visual Thinking
Want To Believe
Whataboutism
Win-Win Thinking
Wishful Thinking
Worldview
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Workaround

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Creative Thinking

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Analysis Paralysis

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Lose-Lose Situation

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Benefit Of Doubt

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Groupthink

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