In recent years, psychologists have come to understand religion and paranormal belief as resulting, in most people, from simple errors in reasoning. You believe in God or astrology or a purpose in life because you apply ideas about people—that they have thoughts and intentions—to the natural world. Some display this tendency more than others, but it’s there in everyone, even atheistic heathens like me. What has not been clarified is exactly how the various cognitive biases interact to produce specific ideas about the supernatural—until now.
Tag Archives: anthropomorphism
Haunted Scrotums and Smiling Fetuses
Humans have a tendency to see faces everywhere—including in medical images. In my book I note a paper in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine titled “The Case of the Haunted Scrotum.” J. R. Harding, a British radiologist, performed a CT scan on a patient with an undescended right testicle. On the left side he saw a “screaming ghostlike apparition” (click to enlarge). On the right, no testicle was found. “If you were a right testis,” he wrote, “would you want to share the scrotum with that?” Continue reading
Teddy Bears Make You Friendlier — And Maybe Healthier
I slept with a Beanie Baby for eight years—from the ages of 18 to 26. Thanks to new research, I can now look back and say it was probably good for me.
(For the story behind my stuffed red dragon, Blip, see chapter 1 of my book.) Continue reading
Spooked by Shakespeare
A short piece by Tad Friend in the January 9 New Yorker demonstrates no fewer than three forms of magical thinking in one column of text.
The subject: John Logan, a playwright and screenwriter (recently: Hugo, Rango, Coriolanus). The scene: Bauman Rare Books on Madison Avenue. Continue reading