Superstitions are these underlying beliefs that certain actions or issues can “curse you.” Some of the most well known superstitions are being cursed by breaking mirrors, walking under ladders, or having a black cat cross your path at night.
Many people have superstitions that they also develop all on their own. Athletes, for example, may have “lucky underwear” or believe they have to have a pre-game ritual to succeed or they are doomed to failure.
Do Superstitions Make Sense?
Does a higher force care so much about you walking under a ladder that they would curse your life simply because you didn’t follow an arbitrary rule?
It’s an interesting question. In many ways it sounds almost narcissistic – that, out of 7,000,000,000 people on the earth, you are important enough that a higher power will go out of its way to curse you because you didn’t follow a strange instruction.
But of course, having a superstition does not mean that you are a narcissist. Rather, it opens the door to the underlying questions about why people take superstitions so seriously.
Positive Superstitions: Can You Have Lucky Hat?
There is no scientific evidence that luck truly exists. Yet so many people, even the most highly educated and psychologically healthy, sometimes have lucky items or superstitious rituals. Why?
- Research has shown that when people don’t know what an outcome will be, they look for anything they can to find some form of control over it. When no form of control exists, they may invent one themselves.
- Rituals Are Calming – When you engage in a ritual that you believe brings you some form of luck or better performance, skipping the ritual may cause anxiety or stress, which increases the risk of failure. Thus superstitions can become self-fulfilling, where even though the event doesn’t technically help, the dependence on the action and the effects of skipping it reinforce the superstition.
Negative Superstitions: Why Do We Avoid Breaking Mirrors?
Negative superstitions may be more complex. When a superstition is introduced into a culture, there may be what’s known as “confirmation bias.” Take Friday the 13th for example. Every day, 365 days a year, people have good things and bad things happen.
On Friday the 13th, generally viewed as a day of bad luck, those bad things are often magnified and those good things are ignored. This then reinforces this belief that Friday the 13th is cursed. They then continue to share that belief socially, leading others to develop an irrational fear of a date.
Some cultures also have more superstitions than others, and in some cases, these superstitions can lead to psychological distress. So while it can be fun to have a lucky hat, and harmless to avoid black cats at night, it’s always a good idea to assess yourself and see if perhaps your behaviors are being overly altered by these superstitious beliefs.