Sunday, April 9, 2017

Hutson, Matthew (2013): The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking - How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

What is it about?

The author intends to provide a "popular" overview of magical thinking in its many forms.

Here, magical thinking is understood very, very broadly and quite synonymously with irrationality. For example, any sentimental feelings (e.g. valuing one's original wedding ring more highly than another identical ring) are classified as "magical thinking" by the author.

The author argues that everyone of us engages in magical thinking. The assertion is easy to accept given the exceedingly encompassing understanding of what constitutes magical thinking.

Perhaps more interestingly, the author argues that magical thinking is beneficial. In a number of cases this is thought-provoking (e.g. connecting with past in terms of the historicity of objects), but the author robs a bit of content from this assertion as well by including, for example, cognitive heuristics, in magical thinking.

Was it good?

I appreciate the basic setup of the book. Moreover, the book is quite nicely written, and reads well because of, for example, because of a high number of examples of the varieties of magical thinking discussed.

However, the highly broad conception of magical thinking inflates the capability of the book to deliver. In my opinion, sentimentality and cognitive heuristics and biases should have been left out, because I understand those to constitute somewhat different phenomena than magical thinking. Moreover, there are excellent books on those subjects already, whereby their treatment in this book pales in comparison.

The main take-away for me?

Perhaps as a result of reading the book, I "observe my thinking" more critically. However, I'm not sure what I should do differently in terms of my behavior. Should I try to value my wedding ring less? Or be grateful that I'm capable of assigning this additional "magic" value to it? Hard to tell.

Who should read the book?

Since the book is so encompassing and "general interest", it's difficult to think of a particularly fitting target audience for the book. Perhaps if one likes popular books on psychology, one would enjoy this one as well.

The book on The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking

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