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Most psychologists define the term "magical thinking" as finding associations that aren't really there, or that groups of psychologists aren't ready to accept are really there. Magical thinking is something all of us experience every day, and something in which many of us indulge on a regular basis. Rather than quoting a lot of well-known science about how humans seek patterns in their experience and come to accept spurious correlations I'll give you some examples of magical thinking in practice.
- When my nephew was about three years old, he went through a phase in which my name could have been "Can-I-Please-Have-A-Quarter-Uncle-Robert." At that time, 25 cents was enough to get one chance to operate a claw in a glass cage to pick out a toy. One evening my nephew asked for a quarter and announced he was going to pick out a green stuffed rabbit toy. He was barely tall enough to see into the machine, but when I gave him the quarter, he went through a good luck ritual he had devised on his own. He blew on the quarter, rubbed his stomach, and said "Ahh." Within seconds he had done the impossible, and he was the owner of a green stuffed rabbit.
- When my neighbor's grandson was five years old, he and his grandparents and I all went fishing. Nobody was catching anything, and the five-year-old was becoming frustrated. Eventually he turned to his grandmother and said, "Can I pray?" She told him yes, and he asked God to give him a fish. The next time he stuck his unbaited hook into the water he caught the only fish of the day for any of us. He asked his grandmother if he could pray again, and she said no.
- I myself have a superstition about picking up (American) pennies I see on the sidewalk. If Abraham Lincoln's likeness is face up, I put the penny in my pocket. Invariably I experience some monetary windfall of $10 or $20 a day or two later. Sometimes I pick three lucky numbers in the Lotto. (I admit that a certain amount of magical thinking is necessary to make a habit of spending even $1 a week in the lottery.) Sometimes I get a coupon for something I would otherwise buy. I have had a $20 bill come in the mail once. Usually finding a penny on the ground leads in a day or two to a small but pleasant surprise.