Magical Thinking Decreases Across Adulthood

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Abstract

Magical thinking, or illogical causal reasoning such as superstitions, decreases across childhood, but almost no data speak to whether this developmental trajectory continues across the life span. In four experiments, magical thinking decreased across adulthood. This pattern replicated across two judgment domains and could not be explained by age-related differences in tolerance of ambiguity, domain-specific knowledge, or search for meaning. These data complement and extend findings that experience, accumulated over decades, guides older adults’ judgments so that they match, or even exceed, young adults’ performance. They also counter participants’ expectations, and cultural sayings (e.g., “old wives’ tales”), that suggest that older adults are especially superstitious.

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