Date: Thursday, March 19, 2015
Time: 3:30 PM
Place: Byker Auditorium, Chemistry and Biochemistry Building

Title: Beyond Religion, A New Psychology of Magical Thinking

Sponsoring department: Psychology


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. Dr. Routledge will propose that magical thinking is motivated, in part, by the need to perceive life as meaningful. In addition, he proposed that even atheists are susceptible to meaning-motivated magical thinking. In support of this proposal, Dr. 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. If we move beyond traditional conceptualizations of religion, we may discover that so-called believers and non-believers are not so different after all.

About the speaker:

Dr. Clay 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. Dr. Routledge is a leading expert in the area of experimental existential psychology. He regularly publishes his work in the 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.