Can Magic Make it Possible? An Examination of Age Differences in Children's Use of Magic as an Explanatory Tool for Impossible and Improbable Outcomes

Quintero-Flores, Natalie Brooke
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A body of existing literature suggests that magical thinking shapes the thoughts and behavior of children. Many children attribute fantastical causes to events that seem impossible in the real world. Previous studies found that older children are less likely to use magic as an explanation to events that violate causal laws, underlining that magical thinking decreases with age. Findings suggest that as children age, they rely less on magical thinking to explain the events they see. However, not much is known about age differences in children’s evaluations of magic as a cause of impossible versus improbable events. This study examines the intersection of children’s reasoning about whether magical objects help make impossible and improbable events occur. In the initial round of data collection, 15 participants completed an online Zoom interview, which included questions about the possibility of impossible and improbable outcomes of vignettes from the biological, physical, psychological, and healing/illness domains (See Figure 1). Participants’ data were examined using quantitative methods. Results suggested that, in certain cases, younger children utilize magic more as an explanation than older children and that children of all ages use magic as an explanation across all domains. These findings may have broader implications for science education as they provide a deeper understanding of children’s conceptions of possibility.
magical thinking, cognitive development, causal reasoning, Psychology, Honors College
Quintero-Flores, N. B. (2021). Can magic make it possible? An examination of age differences in children's use of magic as an explanatory tool for impossible and improbable outcomes (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.