Thursday, April 30, 2020

Believing in magic

For the course Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, the book I chose to focus on was Believing In Magic, by Stuart A. Vyse. Vyse is known for being an American Psychologist, teacher, and speaker who focuses on superstitions and critical thinking. Superstition is anything that comes from an unreliable source that is a belief in categories of luck, and unscientific forces. Superstitions are often prominent from misunderstandings, magic, and fear. The author has created this book to discuss superstitions throughout time. The range of the categories recognized is wide, including superstitions within diverse cultures, different genders, and religions. He also discusses superstitions based on animals, sports, money, and people. Vyse goes through these different superstitions from a psychological perspective and talks about what they are, why people believe in certain practices. 
I really enjoyed the superstitions and learning about different kinds because it was fascinating to see some of the effects. Although some of the chapters stuck out to me more than others. The first chapter that comes to mind when thinking about this book for me was particularly chapter 5. Chapter 5 focused on childhood superstition. This chapter caught my attention quickly because the things we heard growing up were honestly something I have never thought of but after reading this chapter it had me reflecting on a lot of things. As children we were basically trained to be superstitious due to hearing and believing things such as “black cat means bad luck” or “step on a crack you break your mother's back”. These sayings are superstitious because they are not anyhow true but somehow they were once believable and common.
Another topic I enjoyed was the study done on college students in the very first chapter. I think this topic was interesting because it was done on people our age and was very intriguing to see the causes and effects. In this study it shows a psychological effect where one does not act upon something due to a label even when it is factual. The students were presented with real sugar put in a container. Although it was sugar in the container, the label stated “sodium cyanide”. The students all were reluctant and refused to taste the sugar even though they knew what it was. The label had a negative impression that affected them in the grand scheme. To further my knowledge, I decided to browse some other childhood superstitions that are funny to look back on.
The last chapter that I was very drawn to more than the rest was chapter 3. This is one of my favorite superstitions because it is something I can say I have thought of and experienced as well as many others. This topic was the psychological perspective of contiguity and perception. This is the belief of deeper meaning to something. He explained how as humans we have a soft spot for the coincidences in life no matter how big or small and we literally dig to find a deeper meaning even if we know it does not really mean anything. He discusses how these types of superstitions are based on the art of convincing yourself and others through operant conditions.

Overall, I enjoyed the reasoning and education this book has provided throughout it’s read. Vyse could have made this book a dragged out, overheard version of superstition, but he made it about how important our minds and critical thinking are so essential on a daily basis, and how powerful superstition can be. He made this book entertaining as well as beneficial and really got me thinking and reflecting. This book deals with everything you can think of and is informative behind every fact. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who has even a slight interest in superstition. 

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