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Magical Thinking and Consumer Coping

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Abstract

Magical thinking is often regarded as a cognitive distortion, whereby consumers irrationally invoke mystical, supernatural forces to cope with stressful situations. Adopting a culture-based theoretical lens, this article examines magical thinking as an integral element of contemporary consumer society, a cultural practice of meaning negotiation that works to restore the experience of interconnectedness when this experience has been broken. The analysis of interview and blog narratives of consumers attempting to lose weight reveals how they adopt practices imbued with magical thinking in the form of creative persuasion, retribution, and efficient causality. Magical thinking allows participants to construct a space of uncertainty and ambiguity that transforms impossibilities into possibilities, thus sustaining their hope in the pursuit of goals. In so doing, consumers demonstrate a chimerical agency where they creatively blur fantasy and reality to cope with cultural expectations of control.

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