Implicit Voodoo: Electrodermal Activity Reveals a Susceptibility to Sympathetic Magic

In: Journal of Cognition and Culture
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  • 1 Department of Psychology, Yale University New Haven, CT USA
  • 2 Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU UK, Email: bruce.hood@bristol.ac.uk
  • 3 Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU UK
  • 4 Bristol Cognitive Development Centre, School of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol 12a Priory Road, Bristol BS8 1TU UK

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Abstract

Although young children might be uncertain about the nature of certain representations, most modern adults would explicitly maintain that photographs have no ongoing physical connection the objects that they depict. We demonstrate here in three studies that destruction of a photograph of a sentimental object produces significantly more electrodermal activity than destruction of photographs of other control objects. This response is not attributable to anxiety about being observed whilst destroying the picture, nor is it entirely due to simple visual association ‐ the same response occurs when the photograph does not resemble the object. We suggest that this effect may reflect a tacit acceptance of “sympathetic magic”.

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