Monday, August 4, 2014

Believing in Magic


             Believing in magic, The Psychology of Superstition by Stuart Vyse  is a book that explores the relationship between superstition, culture, magic and religion. Also it explains many aspects of a superstitious person. Vyse also explains that many of our behaviors are responses to patterns in our environment. Many people become superstitious due to the responses on our environment when many different factors are combined. The author also explains the different factors of growing up superstitious. He goes over the Magical Thinking, dreams and Piaget Cognitive Development Theories. Piaget believed that "belief in the magical participation between actions and things is produced by a form of realism that confuses a symbolic action with the cause of a subsequent event". Piaget described that childish magical beliefs represent the superstitious hope that some thought or act will bring good or bad consequences. Vyse also suggests that children that grow up in superstitious families become superstitious themselves because children believe what they are told. Social influences also play an important role growing up superstitious. Also, the author suggests that conformity and obedience are other factors to become superstitious. 
            One of my favorite parts the book is when the author presents the profile of the superstitious person, however he points out that this profile is full of contradictory results. The Social or occupational subgroups of the superstitious person vary from: actors, athletes, gambler, miners, sailors and college exam takers. The demographics of the profile of the superstitious person are described as: female, with no conclusive age, less educated, and non-religious. The personalities of the superstitious person describe it with lower intelligence, self-efficacy, ego strength, and self-esteem. Also this profile suggests that superstitious people will have higher risk of depression, anxiety and fear of death. Their family and peer relationships described them as people with overprotective parents, yet rejecting peers. Another favorite part of the book is when the author is trying to define if superstitious is abnormal, irrational, or neither. He goes over the DSM-IV definition of a mental disorder but it is too vague. The American Psychiatric Association defines a mental disorder as a syndrome or pattern that meets any of the following criteria: 1) the syndrome may be distressful, 2) the syndrome may create problems in one or more important areas of functioning, and 3) the syndrome may involve a risk of death or disability.  Overall, I believe the book makes a great analysis about magic, its causes and effects. The book concludes that superstition can have a negative impact in our lives if they are causing us problems in our normal functioning. 

I found this great video dealing with Superstitions, it is very related to the book.

In most of the cases superstitious behavior does not produce suffering, yet there are some superstitions that are maladaptive. The author points out hat superstitions are irrational because they are not scientifically proven. I related this part of the book with the old Mayan prediction were their calendar ends up with no explanation. I am not sure how some people came up with the conclusion that the world was coming to an end. There is no proof that Mayans were suggesting the end of the world. I found a small video that explains it.

On the other hand, many people lost it thinking they  were going to die and they started malfunctioning in order to prepare to the end of the world. This "superstition"  became maladaptive to many people because they were living in fear. Finally, i believe that magic does exists. I want to believe so and i consider myself as a superstitious person, yet superstitions do not affect my life or relationships. 

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