The Human Truth Foundation

Broken Toys and Magical Thinking

By Diego Fontanive 2017

1. Fixing Our Broken Toys is Often Too Difficult

#beliefs #psychology #self_development #thinking_errors

Many of us want "toys", not the exploration of the real thing. And when our beliefs do not fit reality, we want our adored broken toys repaired, or better to say that we want them to look like if they were repaired even when they are not. We are in love with facades, not with depth, nor with the understanding of reality. We're mostly not interested in developing mature comprehension of our psycho-cognitive gaps and flaws. Superficiality, which is an easy thing, is definitely more seducing than intelligence.

Historically this is why we invented religions and ideologies of all kinds in order to escape the objective and deductive examination of the real thing. In the same manner we also create our own personal religions, even when we are not theists or spiritual minded; our syncopated attachments, where irrationality remains unseen.

We don't quite want our flaws to be cured, because we are not sure if we can possibly live without them because they made us, throughout the years.

It's too hard to cure our conditioning, too much work, too many unpleasant and inconvenient realisations: better to rely to the opiate womb of ideological toys, or the religious ones, or the spiritual ones. Our toys are our little mechanisms of escape, and intoxicate us with and by a certain sense of maternal figure where we like to take sentimental but ideological shelter.

All we want is relief, isn't it so?

A cure is too painful: too much processing. It's irritating to be woken up and so much easier to stay in bed. We prefer to stay hypnotised by our flawed toys. The good news is that all of that is actually curable: it's up to us.

2. Magical Thinking

#critical_thinking #magic #pseudoscience #psychology #thinking_errors

Magical thinking is the cognitive tendency to give fallacious attributions to causal relationships between actions and events. Examples can be found by looking at some of the beliefs in the New Age Movement: "your thoughts create reality", the "law of attraction", "distance healing" but also it can be found in the more common belief that prayers affect reality, in mantras and in rituals. People create connections between actions and events when there is no connection whatsoever between them. Why? It is a result of magical thinking.

Magical thinking is a prominent attitude in children between 2 and 7 years old, which means that the presence of magical thinking in adult minds is a strong indication of psychological immaturity. During that age, children strongly believe that their personal thinking processes have a direct effect on the rest of the world. Therefore, if they experience something bad that they do not understand, their mind tends create a reason to feel somehow responsible for it or even guilty. Gullible adults who engage magical thinking tend to think and act the same way. The Balinese culture is a potent example of how collectively magical thinking works; every bad event that happens to the local community gets interpreted as a sign of discontent of the gods and followed by rituals and ceremonies aimed to repair it.

Magical thinking can indeed create strong beliefs, whether personal or collectively accepted, and such beliefs can cause a person to experience irrational forms of anxiety or fear (such as fear of god or fear of getting affected by a curse). These fears are seemingly not rationally justifiable at all to observers from outside of those belief systems. Magical thinking is antithetical to logical thinking because even when a person confidently thinks they are being logical and coherent (known as Dunning Kruger effect) they are still using irrational religious, ideological, spiritual or superstitious thinking. Such a person does not really possess logical thinking skills; magical thinking is broken logic.

People turn to magical beliefs as a response to anxiety or cognitive confusion (rather than rationally studying and understanding these states of mind). Magical ideas are used to restore a sense of (illusory or deluded) control over certain circumstances in life. Superstitious behavior indeed is invoked more often in situations of high stress and anxiety, confusion and sense of despair or sense of being at the mercy of certain events, especially by people who tend to be slightly or highly paranoid about controlling things or generically irrationally fearful. Magical thinking, when it becomes a mindset, therefore a habit, is really an unthinking habit, as well it can be contagious: there is formation of thought but there is no proper thinking with no critical explanatory activity or theorising about what lies behind their beliefs and actions. In other words: magical thinking sticks to idealised but invalid conclusions while logical thinking evaluates the premises at first and therefore allows the mind to detect and drop the biases and therefore it raises proper thought-processes and rational logicality.

Magical thinking is a habit and an escapism from reality, logical thinking is instead a coherent analysis of it.

Diego Fontanive (author) is the thinker behind the End of Fear (EoF) project:

The EOF Project is a self-analysis and study into why humans are so cognitively challenged when it comes to thinking rationally. We combine Critical-Thinking, Metacognition, and Memetics to prevent and decrease gullible, ideological thinking and irrational fears. [...] Think of us as something like Critical Thinking 2.0, because how can anything be more important than our mind?

Jessica Schab
Co-Founder of the EOF

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