dorkbot_magic_small[1]Just did a rather enjoyable interview with my friend and colleague, Dave Young over at, wherein we discussed one of my favorite topics: Magical Thinking.

If you’re new to the blog, here are a few of my previous posts on the topic:

If you’re a little fuzzy on the concept of magical thinking, I recommend this Psychology Today article by Matthew Hutson. But my short and biased take on it goes something like this:

None of us are naturally, inherently rational beings. Our natural thinking patterns are “magical” rather than scientific. It takes a conscious attention to banish the magical and reinstate a scientific view of things.

2011-12-09_1223So regardless of how thoroughly sound-minded you may think you are, there’s a part of you that still thinks magically. You still believe in magical contagion, which is why you treasure first edition, signed copies of books, or you dad’s deer rifle, or a baseball caught at a big league game, and so on. It’s why you wouldn’t want to live in a house formerly lived in by a serial murderer — or worse, a home were violent murders took place. And it’s why you would hesitate to deface a picture of a loved one.

And this matters because the part of us that actually affects our decision-making process is the part that still thinks magically — our emotional, lizard brain. Pretty obvious why every marketer should be intimately familiar with magical thinking, right?

Want to hear more?  Go listen to the interview.

P.S.  If you think Magical Thinking is only something other people engage in, go ahead and try this experiment — I dare you! Go print out a picture, preferably a headshot, of your kid and then stick a knife through it. If you can’t, or simply “won’t” do it, or even if you hesitate to do such a thing and feel funny about it, then congratulations: you just got a first-hand experience with Magical Thinking.


  1. Bill Laidlaw on 12.09.2011

    Funny, when I looked at the pic Jeff I saw Canadian Flag National Holiday Cookies and I wanted to eat them.

  2. Jeff on 12.09.2011

    Those red splotches are pretty ugly maple leafs, there, Bill. But, yes, perception plays a big role in all of this.

  3. Bill Laidlaw on 12.09.2011

    We all see what we want to see (good memories of said cookies helps) Jeff.

    If the dye was red, white and blue I would have just seen the band aids.

  4. Chuck McKay on 12.10.2011

    Jeff, your thought experiment implies that all parents are as enamored of their children as you are of yours. The knife through the photo test is biased.

  5. Jeff on 12.10.2011


    You are indeed correct, sir. LOL. I guess I should have said “child or other beloved as appropriate” or something, but it seemed sort of clunky and child seemed a safer bet than spouse 😉

    – Jeff