Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Insight offered into superstitious behavior

Date:
September 2, 2010
Source:
Kansas State University
Summary:
People who believe that fate and chance control their lives are more likely to be superstitious -- but when faced with death they are likely to abandon superstition altogether, according to new research.

People who believe that fate and chance control their lives are more likely to be superstitious -- but when faced with death they are likely to abandon superstition altogether, according to a recent Kansas State University undergraduate research project.

Related Articles


The project, led by Scott Fluke, a May 2010 K-State bachelor's graduate in psychology, Olathe, focuses on personality traits that lead to superstition. Fluke received a $500 Doreen Shanteau Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2009 to work with the team of Russell Webster, graduate student in psychology, Shorewood, Ill., and Donald Saucier, K-State associate professor of psychology.

For the project, "Re-Examining the Form and Function of Superstition," the team defined superstition as the belief in a casual relationship between an action, object, or ritual and an unrelated outcome. Such superstitious behavior can include actions like wearing a lucky jersey or using good luck charms.

After performing two studies, the researchers developed three reasons for superstitious behavior: individuals use superstitions to gain control over uncertainty; to decrease feelings of helplessness; and because it is easier to rely on superstition instead of coping strategies.

"People sometimes fall back on their superstitions as a handicap," Saucier said. "It's a parachute they think will help them out."

In the first study, the researchers conducted questionnaires with 200 undergraduates, asking about how pessimistic they were, whether they believed in chance or fate, if they liked to be in control and other questions. One of the major discoveries was that people who believe that chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.

In the second study the researchers wanted to know how participants reacted to death, and asked them to write about how they felt about their own death. The team was surprised to find that participants' levels of superstition went down when they thought about their own death, which the researchers attributed to death being a situation of extreme uncertainty.

"We theorized that when people thought about death, they would behave more superstitiously in an effort to gain a sense of control over it," Fluke said. "What we didn't expect was that thinking about death would make people feel helpless -- like they cannot control it -- and that this would actually reduce their superstitious belief."

Fluke got the idea for his research in an undergraduate methods research course his first semester at K-State, when he realized there were many unanswered questions about psychology and superstition. He decided to pursue the topic further as a research project.

"I was interested in superstition because it frustrates me when people do things that don't make sense," Fluke said. "It boggled me that people would use a good luck charm to do well on a test rather than studying for it. We wanted to know why people would go about almost actively hurting themselves."

The research is part of Saucier's overall research program, and the team is now preparing results of their study for publication.

Saucier offers some tips to avoid superstitious behavior:

  • Don't believe in bad luck and take some ownership over what control you do have in situations. Sometimes we use bad luck to let ourselves off the hook, Saucier said, but we should instead focus on what we can do to avoid difficult situations in the first place.
  • Be decisive and proactive.People who are less decisive believe in superstition more, Saucier said, and those who are proactive are less superstitious.
  • Don't be in a situation where you have to rely on bad luck.Bad luck would never occur if only good things happened. If something bad happens and you call it bad luck, do it as a coping mechanism after the fact rather than before the event, Saucier said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Kansas State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Kansas State University. "Insight offered into superstitious behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100902131736.htm>.
Kansas State University. (2010, September 2). Insight offered into superstitious behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100902131736.htm
Kansas State University. "Insight offered into superstitious behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100902131736.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Former NFL Players Donate Brains to Science

Reuters - US Online Video (Mar. 3, 2015) Super Bowl champions Sidney Rice and Steve Weatherford donate their brains, post-mortem, to scientific research into repetitive brain trauma. Jillian Kitchener reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Alzheimer's Protein Plaque Found In 20-Year-Olds

Newsy (Mar. 3, 2015) Researchers found an abnormal protein associated with Alzheimer&apos;s disease in the brains of 20-year-olds. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

This Nasal Treatment Could Help Ease Migraine Pain

Newsy (Mar. 2, 2015) Researchers gave lidocaine to 112 patients, and about 88 percent of the subjects said they needed less migraine-relief medicine the next day. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

How Facebook Use Can Lead To Depression

Newsy (Mar. 1, 2015) Margaret Duffy of the University of Missouri talks about her study on the social network and the envy and depression that Facebook use can cause. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins