Alonso Center Presents: Decolonizing Cognition Magical Thinking, Psychoanalysis, & the Spectrum of Rationality. 

Please join us on Sunday, February 18, 11.30 a.m.-2.30 p.m. ET, for a presentation by a guest speaker, Rain Mason Olbert, PhD, titled “Decolonizing Cognition: Magical Thinking, Psychoanalysis, & the Spectrum of Rationality.”   

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Rain Mason Olbert, Ph.D.

Rain Mason Olbert, Ph.D.

Talk Description: 

The ascendency of natural science and its focus on objective knowledge fostered a powerful ideology—naturalism—which devalues and marginalizes non-scientific ways of experiencing and knowing the world. Max Weber named the experience of mechanization and objectification following in naturalism’s wake disenchantment, an alienating loss of felt meaning, mystery, and magic. Psychological science regards enchantment as a mistake or problem: belief in magic or supernatural reality among adults gets labeled as the cognitive error of magical thinking, which has historically been construed as developmentally immature, culturally “primitive,” or pathological. Despite the uneasy relationship between mainstream psychological science and psychoanalysis, and despite Freud himself drawing parallels between magic and psychoanalysis, the field of psychoanalysis has, in the main, weighed in on the side of disenchantment as well.  

Nevertheless, even though academics have predicted and actively encouraged disenchantment, Americans’ endorsement of paranormal beliefs and divinatory practices have remained relatively stable across the decades. In this presentation, using divination as a paradigm example of magical thinking, I draw from interdisciplinary scholarship to support a cultural psychology approach to enchanted modes of thought. In portraying disenchantment as the natural outcome of normal developmental processes and enchantment as the suboptimal intransigence of ignorance or cognitive bias, psychological science has consistently elided the ways that magical thinking is historically embedded, socially constituted, and culturally situated. Through considering magical thinking instead through a decolonial lens, we can explain the persistence of enchantment and its denigration within psychological science. Doing so also offers a more fertile, inclusive space for theorizing human rationality along a spectrum that includes causal reasoning alongside culturally situated logics of enchantment. 

Speaker Bio: 

Rain Mason Olbert, PhD (they/them), is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Great Barrington, MA. Prior to this, they served as staff psychologist and the Coordinator of the Substance Use Service at the Austen Riggs Center (ARC), in Stockbridge, MA, where they also completed a four-year fellowship in adult psychoanalysis. At ARC, they taught seminars on Contemporary Psychoanalytic Perspectives on Addiction, and Transgender Psychoanalysis. Having trained as a clinical psychologist at Fordham University, Dr. Olbert had the good fortune of gaining clinical experience in the New York City area in community mental health, college counseling, and hospital inpatient and outpatient settings. As a researcher, they have published in Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Schizophrenia Bulletin, Journal of Affective Disorders, Journal of Mental Health, Psychiatry Research, Journal of Theoretical & Philosophical Psychology, and (no kidding) Astrophysical Journal Letters. In their private life, they are a long-time practitioner of Zen meditation and cultivate an interest in medieval European and Islamic astrological talismans. 

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