Introduction: We're all believers -- Objects carry essences : cooties, contagion, and historicity -- Symbols have power : spells, ceremonies, and the law of similarity -- Actions have distant consequences : using superstition to make luck work for you -- The mind knows no bounds : psychokinesis, ESP, and transcendence -- The soul lives on : death is not the end of us -- The world is alive : animals, objects, and gods are people, too -- Everything happens for a reason : you've got a date with destiny -- Epilogue: The world is sacred : a stab at a secular spirituality.
"Psychologists have documented a litany of cognitive biases--misperceptions of the world--and explained their positive functions. Now, Matthew Hutson shows us that even the most hard-core skeptic indulges in magical thinking all the time--and it's crucial to our survival. Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Hutson shows us that magical thinking has been so useful to us that it's hardwired into our brains. It encourages us to think that we actually have free will. It helps make us believe that we have an underlying purpose in the world. It can even protect us from the paralyzing awareness of our own mortality. In other words, magical thinking is a completely irrational way of making our lives make rational sense. With wonderfully entertaining stories, personal reflections, and sharp observations, Hutson reveals our deepest fears and longings"-- Provided by publisher.