Do Perceptions of Control and Uncertainty Predict Supernatural Beliefs?

McMahon, Beth
Wood, Jay
Landhuis, Erik
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Master of Arts in Social Sciences
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Auckland University of Technology

Previous research suggests that perceiving a lack of control can result in various compensatory control strategies. This research has shown that one of the consequences of lack of control is magical thinking, which is the general belief that one’s thoughts or actions can affect magical forces and change outcomes. The present research aimed to examine the impact of a randomness prime on magical thinking. It also considered the role of two individual difference factors, desirability of control and intolerance of uncertainty, in moderating this relationship. Two hundred and ninety participants, recruited online, completed the study. They were asked to re-order 12 sentences, which had either negative connotations (e.g., words such as loss, vomit, etc.) or featured words related to randomness or loss of control (e.g., chaotic, mayhem, etc.). This was followed by the individual difference measures. Moderated regression analysis indicated that the randomness prime had little effect on magical thinking. In some analyses, however, when intolerance of uncertainty acted as a moderator, the negative prime resulted in higher levels of magical thinking. Desirability of control was not a significant moderator. This research’s failure to reproduce the findings of previous studies raises some questions regarding the effect of negative information on magical thinking, as well as the efficacy of priming randomness in this way.

Magical thinking , Compensatory control , Supernatural beliefs , Randomness , Desirability of control , Intolerance of uncertainty
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