If you’re like the majority of people, you sometimes engage in superstitious thinking or behavior—oftentimes without even recognizing it. Consider this: When was the last time you read your daily horoscope, dodged a black cat, or pounded on wood?
A recent Gallup study revealed that more than half of Americans admitted to having some superstition. In addition, over the past ten years, there has been an increase in the popularity of popular Halloween icons like witches, ghosts, and haunted houses. But exactly what psychology underlies our magical thinking, and does it harm or benefit us? When does superstition become excessive?
Superstitions are long-held beliefs that seem to be more grounded in coincidence or cultural tradition than in logic or reality.
Superstitions are typically connected to historically pervasive pagan beliefs or religious activities.
Instead of being more ignorant or naive than we are, our predecessors’ evolved superstitions because they had few practical ways to alter the results of their survival. Similar to how they do today, superstitions formerly provided a means of feeling more in control. Because of this, intelligent, highly educated people continue to hold onto some superstitions.
Whether you genuinely believe in superstitions or not, the most of them are entertaining and harmless. However, some superstitions may contribute to mental health issues like obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Cultural heritage and personal experiences are the two main contributors to superstitions.
The superstitions of a particular culture or religion can creep into you subconsciously if you grow up around them.
When your favorite team is playing a competitor, you might sit in a “lucky” chair, or when you’re up to bat in baseball, you might make the same pattern of taps on the plate.
For instance, if your preferred player scored a touchdown while you were wearing their jersey at a football game, you would think that the two events were related and that your decision to wear the shirt was what led to the desired result (the touchdown). Even though you are likely aware that the two are unrelated, holding onto your conviction feels more satisfying than letting it go.
Superstitions are generally considered to be harmless. Superstitions can occasionally, nevertheless, cause problems in your day-to-day life.
Superstitions can appear as fixations in OCD sufferers. People with OCD may not suspect superstitious practices or beliefs. Other OCD symptoms that may be brought on by this include anxiety or obsessive thinking. In OCD, this is also referred to as “magical thinking.”
Superstitions can also have a detrimental effect on people who suffer from other mental health issues, such as generalized anxiety disorder.
There are few situations where allegedly “magical thinking” can separate reality from imagination. Treatment from a mental health expert may be beneficial in certain situations.
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