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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 is something that is learned, good luck and bad luck just come from babies hearing that a black cat is bad luck or a four-leaf clover is good luck. i suppose that the reason people believe these things in the first place was coincidence, ages ago someone found a four-leaf clover and good things happened to him, not by luck though given that this man is the first to have the four-leaf clover in his area, no one thinks that it is lucky until word spreads that good things happened to him after finding that clover.

    As Debra said superstition is learned, not gained. Do something and good things happen so why not always do it? that's why superstition is so prominent, because the human brain isn't all knowing and therefore we have to guess what will happen, and if by chance something good happens we will keep doing it, and if something bad happens then we will stop.
    • Apr 26 2011: But the very definition of superstition is that even if the bad thing happens we continue to believe in the idea.If we stopped when the bad thing happened it wouldn't be superstition, it would be natural observation.
      I'm not proposing that superstition isn't natural, I think Skinner actually proved that even chickens can display superstitious behavior. My question is why as beings capable of intelligent and discriminating thought to we partake in rituals which we should rightly know are incorrect.
      Take for example astrology, I'm sure the people who believe in it have come across a lot of LIbras who don't quite fit the bill. But instead of scrapping the idea, they let the idea influence and bend their perception. I read once that there was actually a lot of problems with this sort of thinking in the beginning of quantum mechanics, people would come up with models, experiment would show they we incorrect so the people who were coming up with these ideas would just add layer after layer, to stop from being wrong I suppose.
      I am very interested in peoples idea on this. But just to reiterate superstition is the belief in ideas even after observation shows them to be incorrect.
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        Apr 26 2011: Ah- the answer to that problem is called the 'confirmation bias'. It is as though we stop having a file drawer in our brain for anything that disconfirms our belief (such as in our lucky stinky socks). All occurances that disconfirm our superstition are not recorded or remembered while all evidence that confirms our superstition sticks like glue and is highlighted. Thus it is self perpetuating and impossible to disconfirm. There was an evangelist here in Canada who was clearly denounced and proved to have been cheating in his prophetic wisdom about people and their illnesses. He was caught- on tape that was televised- using a scam which included plants in the audience and a mike in his ear from the attic of the church which gave the details of people's lives and problems. He was utterly proven to be a fraud and yet with a little time- he is back at it with a huge following again!

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