By Lauren Davis
Many people around the world believe in magic spells and rituals, but that doesn’t mean that it’s enough to wave a wand and mutter a few unpronounceable words to convince a believer that the magic will work. A new study out of Brazil suggests that people are most likely to believe in the power of a magical ritual when that ritual involves repeating steps and takes a lot of time.
Cristine Legare, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology at The University of Texas at Austin, is interested in studying the way that the human brain uses the supernatural to understand the world. To that end, Legare and graduate student André Souza conducted a study of 162 in Brazil. Taking cues from Brazilian simpatias rituals, formulaic rituals that are used to solve various problems from quitting smoking to warding off bad luck, Legare and Souza invented a number of magical rituals, varying aspects like the number of steps, number of repetitions, number of items used, and presence of religious icons in the ritual.