Superstition Easier Than Coping Strategies

MANHATTAN, Kan., Sept. 7 (UPI) — People use superstition to deal with uncertainty and decrease feelings of helplessness because it’s easier than using coping strategies, U.S. researchers say.

Study leader Scott Fluke, a graduate of Kansas State University who won a fellowship to work with Russell Webster, a graduate student in psychology and Donald Saucier, an associate professor of psychology, defined superstition as the belief in a casual relationship between an action, object or ritual and an unrelated outcome. Wearing a lucky jersey in hopes of winning a sporting event, for example.

In one study, 200 undergraduates completed questionnaires about how pessimistic they were, whether they believed in chance or fate, and if they liked to be in control.

One of the major discoveries was that people who believe chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.

“People sometimes fall back on their superstitions as a handicap,” Saucier said in a statement. “It’s a parachute they think will help them out.”

In the second study, the researchers asked the study participants to write about how they felt about their own death. The participants’ levels of superstition went down when they thought about their own death.

“We theorized that when people thought about death, they would behave more superstitiously in an effort to gain a sense of control,” Fluke said. “What we didn’t expect was that thinking about death would make people feel helpless — like they cannot control it — and that this would actually reduce their superstitious belief.”

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