Everyday magical powers: The role of apparent mental causation in the overestimation of personal influence

Emily Pronin, Daniel M. Wegner, Kimberly McCarthy, Sylvia Rodriguez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

134 Scopus citations


These studies examined whether having thoughts related to an event before it occurs leads people to infer that they caused the event - even when such causation might otherwise seem magical. In Study 1, people perceived that they had harmed another person via a voodoo hex. These perceptions were more likely among those who had first been induced to harbor evil thoughts about their victim. In Study 2, spectators of a peer's basketball-shooting performance were more likely to perceive that they had influenced his success if they had first generated positive visualizations consistent with that success. Observers privy to those spectators' visualizations made similar attributions about the spectators' influence. Finally, additional studies suggested that these results occur even when the thought-about outcome is viewed as unwanted by the thinker and even in field settings where the relevant outcome is occurring as part of a live athletic competition.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)218-231
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of personality and social psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Apparent mental causation
  • Causal inference
  • Conscious will
  • Magical beliefs
  • Self-perception


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