Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Backward magical contagion: discomfort or pleasure when something like hair falls into the possession of a negatively- or positively-perceived individual; lots of people experience such fear

Reversing the causal arrow: Incidence and properties of negative backward magical contagion in Americans. Paul Rozin, Christopher Dunn, Natalie Fedotova. Judgment and Decision Making, Vol. 13, No. 5, Sept 2018, pp. 441-450,

Abstract: Backward magical contagion describes instances in which individuals (sources) express discomfort or pleasure when something connected to them (medium; e.g., hair, a diary) falls into the possession of a negatively- or positively-perceived individual (recipient). The reaction seems illogical, since it is made clear that the source will never experience the object again, and the psychological effect appears to reverse the standard forward model of causality. Backward magical contagion was originally believed to be a belief held only within traditional cultures. Two studies examined negative backward contagion in adult Americans in online surveys. Study 1 indicated that backward contagion effects occur commonly, particularly when a recipient knows of the medium’s source. Study 2 showed that backward contagion effects tend to be neutralized when the recipient burns the object, as opposed to just possessing it or discarding it. Ironically, in traditional cultures, burning is a particularly potent cause of backward contagion.

Keywords: magic, contagion, backward causation

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