The role of magical thinking in forecasting the future

O. Stavrova, Andrea Meckel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


This article explores the role of magical thinking in the subjective probabilities of future chance events. In five experiments, we show that individuals tend to predict a more lucky future (reflected in probability judgements of lucky and unfortunate chance events) for someone who happened to purchase a product associated with a highly moral person than for someone who unknowingly purchased a product associated with a highly immoral person. In the former case, positive events were considered more likely than negative events, whereas in the latter case, the difference in the likelihood judgement of positive and negative events disappeared or even reversed. Our results indicate that this effect is unlikely to be driven by participants' immanent justice beliefs, the availability heuristic, or experimenter demand. Finally, we show that individuals rely more heavily on magical thinking when their need for control is threatened, thus suggesting that lack of control represents a factor in driving magical thinking in making predictions about the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)148–168
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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