The permanence of mental objects: testing magical thinking on perceived and imaginary realities

Dev Psychol. 2005 Mar;41(2):301-18. doi: 10.1037/0012-1649.41.2.301.


This study tested participants' preparedness to acknowledge that an object could change as a result of magical intervention. Six- and 9-year-old children and adults treated perceived and imagined objects as being equally permanent. Adults treated a fantastic object as significantly less permanent than either perceived or imagined objects. Results were similar when a different type of mental-physical causality--a participant's own wish--was examined. Adults were also tested on the permanence of personally significant imagined objects (participants' images of their future lives). Although almost all participants claimed that they did not believe in magic, in test trials they were not prepared to rule out the possibility that their future lives could be affected by a magical curse.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Imagination*
  • Magic / psychology*
  • Male
  • Perception*
  • Psychology, Child
  • Thinking*
  • Visual Perception