The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

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9781594630873: The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane

What is so special about touching a piano John Lennon once owned? Why do we yell at our laptops? What drove the Yankees to dig up the Red Sox jersey secretly buried beneath their new stadium? And what's up with the phrase "Everything happens for a reason"?

Psychologists have documented a litany of cognitive biases—misperceptions of reality—and explained their positive functions. Now, Matthew Hutson shows that all of us, even the staunchest skeptics, engage in magical thinking all the time—and that we can use it to our advantage, if we know how to outsmart it.

Drawing on cognitive science, neuroscience, psychology, and anthropology, 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 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 sense.

With wonderfully entertaining stories, personal reflections, and sharp observations, Hutson has written a book that is entertaining, useful, and ever so slightly alarming.

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From the Back Cover:

7 REASONS TO READ The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking

1: "Matthew Hutson promises to convince the most hard-core skeptics and rationalists that they believe in magic, and he succeeds—with wit and clarity and scientific rigor." 
—SHARON BEGLEY, author of Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain 

2: "A remarkably creative synthesis of the science behind magical thinking threaded through with a very personal narrative that engages the reader." 
—BRUCE HOOD, PH.D., author of SuperSense and The Self Illusion 

3: "With wit and respect for both the rational and the irrational, Hutson reveals the pervasiveness of superstition and 'magical thinking,' even among people who consider themselves totally rational." 
—ALAN LIGHTMAN, PH.D., author of Einstein's Dreams 

4: "This is a book that you pick up but can't put down. Hutson, intelligently and entertainingly, gives us the best kind: one that gives us insight to our very core. Highly recommended!" 
—ORI BRAFMAN, coathour of Sway and Click 

5: "In this brilliant, exhilarating book, Matthew Hutson surveys the new science of belief and irrationality to reveal the delights of the human capacity for magical thinking." 
—DACHER KELTNER, PH.D., author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life 

6: "In this wickedly funny and deeply clever book, Matthew Hutson makes a radical claim: all of us, whether we accept it or not, believe in magic." 
—PAUL BLOOM, PH.D., author of Descartes' Baby and How Pleasure Works 

7: "This book about thinking is magical. It's the perfect blend of astonishing stories, up-to-date science, awe, beauty, disgust, and humor. It's science journalism at its best." 
—JONATHAN HAIDT, PH.D., author of The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind

About the Author:

Matthew Hutson, a former editor at Psychology Today, has a B.S. in cognitive neuroscience from Brown University and an M.S. in science writing from MIT. He has written for Wired, Discover, Popular Mechanics, Scientific American Mind, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times Magazine. He lives in New York City. Visit

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