How Irrationality Makes Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane
Drawing on evolution, cognitive science, and neuroscience, Matthew Hutson takes us on this fascinating tour of magical thinking in everyday life. So-called cognitive biases are crucial to our survival, Hutson shows, whether we're deciding where to invest our money or avoiding awareness of our own mortality. Everyone – even the most rational, jaded, and sceptical thinkers – believe in magic, whether that be luck, mind over matter, jinxes, evil, or heavenly helpers. The key to happiness, health, creativity, social intelligence, and good fortune is knowing when you don't have free will and then embracing magical thinking instead.
"A remarkably creative synthesis of the science behind magical thinking, threaded through with a very personal narrative that engages the reader."
BBC Focus, five stars
"Wickedly funny and deeply clever."
Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works
"This book about thinking is magical. It’s the perfect blend of astonishing stories, up-to-date science, awe, beauty, disgust, humour… great writing and deep humanity."
Jonathan Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis
"An eloquent argument for the essential role of magical thinking."
Table of Contents:
Introduction: We're All Believers
1. Objects Carry Essences: 'Cooties', Contagion, and Historicity
2. Symbols Have Power: Spells, Ceremonies, and the Law of Similarity
3. Actions Have Distant Consequences: Using Superstition to Make Luck Work for You
4. The Mind Knows No Bounds: Psychokinesis, ESP, and Transcendence
5. The Soul Lives On: Death Is Not the End of Us
6. The World Is Alive: Animals, Objects, and Gods Are People, Too
7. Everything Happens for a Reason: You’ve Got a Date with Destiny
Epilogue: The World Is Sacred: A Stab at a Secular Spirituality