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It’s a Miracle: Separating the Miraculous from the Mundane

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Summary What aspects and features of events impel people to label them as miraculous? Three studies examined people’s miracle conceptions and the factors that lead them to designate an event as a miracle. Study 1 identified the basic elements of laypersons’ miracle beliefs by instructing participants to define a miracle, to list five events that they considered miraculous, and to state what they believed to be the purpose of miracles. Results showed that individuals tend to view miracles as highly improbable and beneficial occurrences that instill hope and faith in people. Studies 2 and 3 investigated people’s intuitive miracle theories. Findings demonstrated that people tend to label events as miracles when the events in question were of high magnitude, were obtained in an unusual manner, resulted in a beneficial health outcome, personally affected the participant, involved a person of worthy character, and depicted a low-probability event.


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