People tend to believe in Superstitions.
Those who believe show off as a Non believer to assert they are rational.
But Human Psyche needs props.
Superstitions reinforce that need.
Why do we believe in Superstitions?
A menacing ladder, a black cat. Perhaps I’d better knock wood before proceeding. No need to apologize if the approach of Halloween makes you extra superstitious. Many successful people harbor superstitions aplenty – and serious scientists find superstition a rich field of study. Our Cover Story is reported by Susan Spencer of “48 Hours”:
Casey Daigle pitched in the major leagues; his wife, Jenny Finch, won Olympic medals in softball. Their proud careers were built on talent, and (although they don’t like to admit it) a little superstition, some of it pretty strange . . .
Before each game Casey would put his socks on a certain way. “There was months, there was weeks that I wouldn’t shave,” he said, “as bad as it itches, and I mean you’re in the summer playing in Arizona. It’s 115 degrees and you got a beard! But you gotta suck it up, that’s part of it.”
“I would always put my bat bag in the same spot, my glove in the same spot, my helmet,” said Jennie. “When it came down to it, I had two favorite sports bras. I wanted that same sports bra for the game.”
Casey said that if he were the home team, “I would go to the bathroom in the fifth inning. If we were the away team, then I would go to the bathroom in the sixth inning. Even if you didn’t have to go to the bathroom, you went to the bathroom.”….
What is superstition? “A belief or an action that is inconsistent with science,” said Vyse. “And it needs to be aimed at bringing about good luck, or avoiding bad luck.”
Vyse says only 40 percent of Americans believe in evolution. And in superstition? “Over half of Americans have some kind of superstition that they believe in,” he said.
“So more Americans have some specific superstition than believe in evolution?” asked Spencer.
“That’s right, that’s right. That would be true. And that’s not a good thing.”
A new CBS News poll for “Sunday Morning” finds more than half of all Americans (51 percent) knock on wood to avoid bad luck; 16 percent won’t open umbrellas indoors; 13 percent carry a good luck charm; and one in ten (10 percent) avoids black cats….
“Just think of Halloween as an advertisement for superstitions,” said Cornell University psychology professor Tom Gilovich.
And like any good advertisement, superstitions have the power to overcome your rational brain, said Gilovich.
“One of the interesting things about superstitions is their seemingly arbitrary nature,” he said. “Like, why 13? Why black cats? Why ladders? Don’t walk under that ladder! It has no rational bearing. But now you feel like you’re tempting fate and the outcome, a bad outcome, that could befall you is going to be worse because you deliberately did something that people tell you you shouldn’t do.”
“And is the outcome likely to be worse?” asked Spencer.
“No! Absolutely not,” laughed Gilovich.
But here’s what’s really scary: Gilovich says our brains are wired to believe this nonsense – to find cause and effect where there is none.
“The baseball player who has this elaborate superstition about putting socks on in a certain order, he noted he didn’t try to remember this; the mind just registered that when he put his socks on that particular day, something good happened. And therefore that becomes hard to ignore,” said Gilovich.
Casey Daigle explained: “You go out and as a hitter you go one game, you go four for four with two doubles and a triple. Well, every baseball player I know almost is going to think in their head, What did I do during the day today that got me to go four for four? Well, if there’s a couple of things that stick out, I bet the bank account they’re going to do it tomorrow.”
That’s an even safer bet when things are tense.
And without nervousness, there might be no superstitions at all.
Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas in Austin says superstitions grow out of our need to take charge of situations, and to reduce anxiety: “If you’re just a more anxious person, you are sort of set up to be a little bit more superstitious. You just have a lot more ambient anxiety.
“We become very anxious when we lack control. And one of the ways if we can’t regain it objectively is to try and regain it perceptually. Maybe I can’t actually keep something bad from happening to me. But if I knock on wood, then I’ve done something. Right? I’ve taken action. And that can help someone feel less anxious as a result.”