On this Friday the 13th, we wanted to learn more about the psychology of superstitions, so we turned to therapist Jessie Shepherd.
She says when people start believing in one thing - like that they are lucky or unlucky - they begin paying more attention to the events that reinforce what they already believe. (Hamerman, E. J., & Morewedge, C. K. (2015). Reliance on Luck: Identifying Which Achievement Goals Elicit Superstitious Behavior. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 41(3), 323–335. )
It is a form of reactivity when a person expects a given result and therefore unconsciously affects the outcome, or reports the expected result. This is why there are double blind studies to remove this bias.
Jessie says superstitions give us a sense of control, specifically when we are emotionally intertwined with, but have little way to affect a real outcome. And, she says there are ways to get your superstitions to work positively for you:
• Optimism (see opportunity/positivity)
• Openness (to take the opportunity)
• Skill/being prepared (prepared for the opportunity)
Superstitions that have real truths
Jessie also talked about some common superstitions.
Don't open an umbrella indoors: You or a family member will be injured or have bad luck.
The Truth: Opening an umbrella really isn't a good idea- the metal framework could harm soft tissues like your eyes. Specifically if your umbrella has a spring action opening mechanism.
Don't walk under a ladder: General bad luck with this one.
The Truth: Having someone walk under a ladder has the potential of them knocking it and making it unstable. Anyone near the ladder could get hurt.
Shoes on the table: Whoever puts their shoes on the table will become ill or die.
The Truth: Putting your shoes on the table brings the surface you walk on and the surface you eat on together- sharing germs and whatever else you brought in, increasing the likelihood of illness.
You can find more information at blueclovertherapy.com.