Montana State University

Free public lecture about magical thinking and religious beliefs set for March 19 at MSU

March 10, 2015 -- MSU News Service

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Tel: (406) 994-4571

A free public lecture about magical thinking and religious beliefs will be given at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19, in the Byker Auditorium in the Chemistry and Biochemistry Building at Montana State University.

Clay Routledge, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology at North Dakota State University, will present "Beyond Religion, A New Psychology of Magical Thinking."

Traditionally, psychologists have viewed religiosity as a belief tied to a prominent ideological system (e.g., Christianity) and one that people are able to easily self-report. Few studies have focused more specifically on the magical thinking that underlies religious belief, the motives that may promote this type of thinking and the possibility that even those who do not self-identify as religious engage in this type of thinking. Routledge will propose that magical thinking is motivated, in part, by the need to perceive life as meaningful. In addition, he proposes that even atheists are susceptible to meaning-motivated magical thinking. In support of this proposal, Routledge will discuss research linking different forms of magical thinking (e.g., teleological errors, superstition, paranormal beliefs) to the pursuit of meaning in life. He will also demonstrate that even atheists are magical thinkers, particularly when they are trying to find and maintain perceptions of meaning in life.

Routledge is a social psychologist and associate professor of psychology at North Dakota State University. His research focuses on how the need to perceive life as meaningful impacts mental and physical health, close relationships and intergroup relations. He is a leading expert in the area of experimental existential psychology. He regularly publishes his work in top psychology journals, recently co-edited a book on the scientific study of meaning in life and is currently writing a book on the psychology of nostalgia. His work has been featured by media outlets such as NPR, BBC, CNN and ABC News, as well as in publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Men's Health, Women's Health and Cosmopolitan.

Routledge’s lecture is sponsored by the MSU Department of Psychology and is presented by the MSU College of Letters and Science's Distinguished Speakers Series. The series, which began in the spring of 2011, brings distinguished scholars to MSU to give a public talk and to meet with faculty and students in order to enrich the intellectual life on campus and to enhance research connections.

For more information about this and other L&S Distinguished Speakers Series lectures, please visit or call 994-4288.

Contact: Jody Sanford, (406) 994-7791 or