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magical thinking

Magical thinking is causal reasoning that looks for correlation between acts or utterances and certain events. In religion, folk religion and superstition, the correlation posited is between religious ritual, such as prayer, sacrifice or the observance of a taboo, and an expected benefit or recompense. In clinical psychology, magical thinking is a condition that causes the patient to experience irrational fear of performing certain acts or having certain thoughts because they assume a correlation with their acts and threatening calamities.

Magical thinking includes all systems of magic, as it includes the idea of mental causation, i.e. the possibility of the mind having an effect on the physical world directly. In Jungian psychology, magical thinking is described in terms of synchronicity, an approach that looks not for causality but for meaning in the co-occurrence of certain events.

"Quasi-magical thinking" describes "cases in which people act as if they erroneously believe that their action influences the outcome, even though they do not really hold that belief".

Another theory of magical thinking is the symbolic approach. Leading thinkers of this category, including Stanley J. Tambiah, believe that magic is meant to be expressive, rather than instrumental. As opposed to the direct, mimetic thinking of Frazer, Tambiah asserts that magic utilizes abstract analogies to express a desired state, along the lines of metonymy or metaphor.

An important question raised by this interpretation is how mere symbols could mimic material effects. One possible answer lies in John L. Austin's concept of performativity in which the act of saying something makes it true, such as in an inaugural or marital rite.

Other theories propose that magic is effective because symbols are able to change internal psycho-physical states. They claim that the act of expressing a certain anxiety or desire is reparative in itself.

These theories can seem limited in that they do not account for the various explicitly instrumental magical practices. Many magical cultures have produced extensive rationalizations for magic's potential lack of efficacy; this indicates that magical routines are invoked to bring about physical results. As stated by Gilbert Lewis, �if magicians performed spells for explicitly symbolic or metaphorical purposes, then we wouldn't consider them magic at all��