September 6, 2006
We Are Prewired To Be Superstitious
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According to Bruce Hood, Professor of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol, our minds have evolved the need to accept (be susceptible to) irrational explanations (supernatural beliefs).
"Mankind is adapted to reason intuitively, to invent explanations for how the world works, which increases the odds of keeping safe. Superstitions also provide a welcome sense of control. We cross our fingers to trap the bad luck between them. We say “bless you” to stop the soul following the sneeze out of the body."
He claims that even the most rational people behave in irrational ways at times.
To demonstrate his theory, he asked members of the audience if they were prepared to put on an old-fashioned blue cardigan in return for a pound stg. 10 ($25) reward.
He had no shortage of volunteers. He then told the volunteers that the cardigan used to belong to Fred West, the mass murderer.
"Most hands went down," Professor Hood said.
"When people did wear it, people moved away from them. It's not actually West's jumper. But it's the belief that it's West's jumper that has the effect.
"It is as if evil - a moral stance defined by culture - has become physically manifest inside the clothing."
I'll admit it, I have been known to wear a lucky shirt to the racetrack. And I know I still do other irrational things that border on superstitious behavior.
Professional athletes really show superstitious behavior over and over again. Hockey players not shaving during the playoffs, to baseball players who refuse to step on baselines. Some of this is God related, like crossing oneself before a pitch is thrown but for me, God has nothing to do with it......It is strictly irrational behavior that is prewired in my head. We have to fight it. I think we have to fight the idea of a higher power too....at least Atheists like myself do.
It might be a fine line to figure out what is superstitious behavior versus something that might make you feel overly confident. For example, it is irrational that a lucky shirt will make you win an event you aren't participating in, however, if you are in fact participating in the event, the fact you are wearing the lucky shirt may raise your confidence level enough to win.
In the animal kingdom, when a cat rubs it's ear grease on your legs in order to get fed....could this be some sort of superstitious behavior too? Does the cat think it is lucky if it does this?
Please note: I use the American spelling of behavior because most of my readers are Americans. Canadians can handle the American spellling. I'm not sure if Americans can handle the Canadian spelling. And besides, since I started this blog, I've used American versus Canadian spelling. If I change doing it this way, I know something bad will happen to me.
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