Hocus Pocus, Hexes and Healers: The Placebo Behind Magic


  • Jason Da Silva Castanheira McGill University
  • Amir Raz McGill University


My friend and I sat in the library late one afternoon frantically studying for finals. A nervous wreck, she could not help but panic at the thought of memorizing hundreds of molecules. At that very moment, I serendipitously received a message from my aunt who lived in Portugal—an expert spell caster who could ensure anyone a good grade on an exam. After telling this to my friend she quickly made a list of requests. My friend aced that final, but not because I informed my aunt of her pleas… Though witchcraft and the occult make very appealing explanations for the strange things that happen to us in our daily lives, these explanations do not stand the rigor of science. The so-called ‘magic’ that entices and enchants us, often stems from placebo effects and psychology. For better or for worse, the magic in our world has a significantly less supernatural explanation. Let us unveil the science behind the curtain. 

Author Biographies

Jason Da Silva Castanheira, McGill University

Neuroscience and psychology

Amir Raz, McGill University

Canada Research Chair in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Attention at both the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University and the SMBD Jewish General Hospital



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How to Cite

Da Silva Castanheira, J., & Raz, A. (2017). Hocus Pocus, Hexes and Healers: The Placebo Behind Magic. Ars Medica, 12(2). Retrieved from https://ars-medica.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/481