Who Hates Magic? Exploring the Loathing of Legerdemain

Paul J. Silvia*, Gil Greengross, Maciej Karwowski, Rebekah M. Rodriguez, Sara J. Crasson

*Corresponding author for this work

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Magic is an ancient, universal, diverse, and wide-ranging domain of artistic performance. Despite its worldwide popularity, however, any working magician will tell you that some people really hate magic. They seem to see every illusion as a challenge to be solved and every performance as an insult to their intelligence. A distinctive feature of magic is that it seeks to create emotions through deception—practitioners create the illusion of the impossible, which can provoke intense curiosity and uncertainty, but will not explain the method—so disliking magic could stem from a few factors: (a) low propensity for curiosity, awe, and wonder; (b) high needs for certainty and cognitive structure, which make a person averse to uncertainty and to events that violate one’s mental models of the world; and (c) high needs for social status and dominance, which make a person averse to being manipulated. The present research explored people’s attitudes toward magic with a brief Loathing of Legerdemain scale. In a multinational sample of 1,599 adults, people who hated magic were marked by (a) lower openness to experience and lower awe-proneness; (b) higher dogmatism, intolerance of uncertainty, and personal need for structure; and (c) higher socially aversive traits, such as lower agreeableness, greater interpersonal dominance, and higher psychopathy. We suggest that magic is an interesting case for researchers interested in audience and visitor studies and that the psychology of art would benefit from a richer understanding of negative audience attitudes more generally.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts
Early online date24 Mar 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Mar 2022


  • Awe
  • Curiosity
  • Intolerance of uncertainty
  • Magic
  • Personality


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