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Why do we engage in superstition?

My thought is that if you want to know something about the world or how things work you put the effort in to learn about it. Then after some time of study you genuinely know about the subject you were interested in.

I want to know people's opinions on why superstition still pervades even at a time where the resources for understanding are literally at our fingertips.

*By superstition I mean anything from luck (don't walk under a ladder) to more elaborate ideas and rituals.


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    Apr 26 2011: Superstition comes from one of the most basic human desires -- the desire to control one's future. This could be an attempt to make something good happen, or an attempt to prevent something bad from happening.

    I think the prevalence of superstition is actually very natural, given that it's based on positive or negative reenforcement/ If a student studies at home and passes a quiz, studying has been positively reenforced, right? But what if next time this student studies at the library instead, and fails miserably? While the truth likely has something to do with level of focus or difficulty of material, or a hundred other influences, what is the most obvious difference to the student? Why the library, of course. So in this example blaming poor results on the library can be thought of as analyzing a complex situation and coming up with a lazy answer. But it is also based on conditioning, the most fundamental human motivator.

    Other times superstitions can arise because they are just so simple ... if a soccer player rubs his bald coaches head before entering a game and scores the winner, you could analysis the unlikeliness of the two events having any connection all you like, but doesn't it seem natural to do the same thing again? Even if the bald head doesn't do anything, the confidence the player gets from a superstition may very well make a difference.

    EDIT: I could feel myself rambling, so hopefully my ideas come across semi-coherently. I've never really thought about this before, and it's an interesting question. I'm glad you brought it up.
    • Apr 26 2011: Your ideas do make sense, but may I just add something here.

      If the soccer player rubs the coaches head and the team wins then that's fine. If they win 2 or 3 games then it's still fine, but if they then go on a 5 game loosing streak even though he continues to rub the bald head but the soccer player insists on retaining the ritual that is when it becomes superstition.

      Superstition is holding on to the belief in defiance of cause and effect.
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        May 13 2011: Probably because at some stage the very act (considered as superstition) becomes fact, and then mind starts to find reasons to explain when it is in its own defiance; e.g. myth of geocentric model of universe couldn't explain the erratic movement of other planets in solar system, and that was explained by considering other planets are wondering heavenly beings (asteres planetai, "wandering stars"). Or to explain the concept of Dualism, Rene Descartes proposed that Pineal should be seat of the rational soul.
        These examples are of myths/superstition that were carried for long in science considering them as facts.

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