“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. Without these intuitions, he says, we would hardly be human. Through vivid examples and cutting-edge science, Hutson presents a provocative new theory of how we make sense of the world.”
. —Paul Bloom, Ph.D., author of Descartes’ Baby and How Pleasure Works
“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: great writing and deep humanity bring out the profound relevance of psychological experiments for people who search for meaning using minds that were designed for so many other purposes.”
. —Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., author of The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind
“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. Reading this book, engaging in its treatments of karma, god, divine essences, the afterlife, and the sacred, will lead you to a more reverential appreciation of human irrationality, and the science that tries to understand it.”
. —Dacher Keltner, Ph.D., author of Born to Be Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
“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
“This is a book that you pick up, but can’t put down. Hutson, intelligently and entertainingly, gives us the best kind of book: one that gives us insight to our very core. Highly recommended!”
. —Ori Brafman, co-author of Sway and Click
“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, and further makes a compelling argument that irrational beliefs are actually necessary for our mental accommodation to this strange universe we find ourselves in.”
. —Alan Lightman, Ph.D., author of Einstein’s Dreams
“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
. —BBC Focus
One of the four nonfiction “Best Books” of 2012.
“[Hutson] marshals an impressive array of recent evidence… ultimately, he provides an eloquent argument for the essential role magical thinking plays in making human life more comprehensible and less scary.”
. —The Sunday Times
“Hutson analyses the call of the numinous in a range of beliefs…”
“…well researched, irreverent…”
“Think only naïfs believe in things without evidence? Not so fast, cautions Hutson…”
. —Psychology Today
“Hutson combines compelling anecdotes with psychological studies…”
. —Scientific American Mind
“Hutson makes his points forcefully and with wit.”
. —Seattle Post-Intelligencer / Blogcritics
“[A] sprightly pop-psychology treatise… Hutson’s lucid and entertaining treatment blends brain science, evolutionary theory, and cultural commentary on everything from spells and amulets to the rap duo Insane Clown Posse… This illuminating exploration of the science of unscientific convictions by a former news editor at Psychology Today nicely balances bemused skepticism with warm appreciation for the mind’s fanciful, functional creativity.”
. —Publisher’s Weekly
“a whirlwind tour … informative and enjoyable”
. —Library Journal Review
“Thought-provoking and highly readable.”
“Chapters are replete with numerous astonishing examples and research findings… A fascinating insight into the science and research behind some of the most inspiring and perplexing phenomena in our lives… For sceptics and believers alike this book is likely to interest, challenge and provoke.”
. —We Love This Book (UK)
(see also: Media Appearances)
“In Defense of Superstition,” my op-ed in The New York Times.
“Your Sixth Sense,” my cover story for Psychology Today.
“Are Americans Still Puritan?,” my second op-ed in The New York Times.
“Adoption, Destiny, and Magical Thinking,” my New York Times blog post.
“Why We Believe in Tempting Fate,” an excerpt at Scientific American.
“What Doesn’t Kill You,” an excerpt at Salon.
“Why We Blame God for Our Problems,” an excerpt at Wired Science.
“Why It’s Sometimes Rational to Be Irrational,” a Q&A at Wired Science.
“13 Reasons Non-Believers Don’t Exist,” a slide show for The Huffington Post.
“How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Sane,” coverage by Forbes.
“New Reasons to Believe that ‘Everything Happens for a Reason’,” coverage by Self.
“Why So Many People Believe in Ghosts,” a Q&A in Real Simple.
“Why Superstition and ‘Magical Thinking’ Have Real Benefits,” a Q&A on TIME.com.
“5 Ways Even Rational People Buy into Superstitions,” coverage by The Globe and Mail (Canada).
“Incorporate Self-Motivation in Your Business and in Life,” coverage by Investor’s Business Daily.
“How Believing in Magic Keeps Us Happy and Healthy: A Q&A,” coverage in The Star-Ledger (New Jersey).
“Embrace the Supernatural,” coverage by Lifehacker.
“Do You Believe in Magic?,” a Q&A on Greatist.
“Why Everyone Believes in Magic (Even You),” coverage by Life’s Little Mysteries.
“The Power of Numbers,” a mention and quote in China Daily.
Interview by David Van Nuys on Shrink Rap Radio.
Interview by Massimo Pigliucci and Julia Galef on Rationally Speaking.
Selected by Mary Roach (author of Stiff, Spook, and Bonk) as recommended reading for better critical thinking.