ERIC Number: EJ942945
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 29
Magical Thinking in Judgments of Causation: Can Anomalous Phenomena Affect Ontological Causal Beliefs in Children and Adults?
British Journal of Developmental Psychology, v22 n1 p123-152 Mar 2004
In four experiments, 4-, 5-, 6- and 9-year-old children and adults were tested on the entrenchment of their magical beliefs and their beliefs in the universal power of physical causality. In Experiment 1, even 4-year-olds showed some understanding of the difference between ordinary and anomalous (magical) causal events, but only 6-year-olds and older participants denied that magic could occur in real life. When shown an anomalous causal event (a transformation of a physical object in an apparently empty box after a magic spell was cast on the box), 4- and 6-year-olds accepted magical explanations of the event, whereas 9-year-olds and adults did not. In Experiment 2, the same patterns of behaviour as above were shown by 6- and 9-year-olds who demonstrated an understanding of the difference between genuine magical events and similarly looking tricks. Testing the entrenchment of magical beliefs in this experiment showed that 5-year-olds tended to retain their magical explanations of the anomalous event, even after the mechanism of the trick had been explained to them, whereas 6- and 9-year-olds did not. In Experiment 3, adult participants refused to accept magical explanations of the anomalous event and interpreted it as a trick or an illusion, even after this event was repeated 4 times. Yet, when in Experiment 4 similar anomalous causal events were demonstrated without reference to magic, most adults acknowledged, both in their verbal judgments and in their actions, that the anomalous effects were not a fiction but had really occurred. The data of this study suggest that in the modern industrialized world, magical beliefs persist but are disguised to fit the dominant scientific paradigm.
Descriptors: Young Children, Beliefs, Adults, Fantasy, Imagination, Age Differences, Children, Attribution Theory, Testing
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
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