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Where Do Superstitions Come From?

Ever wonder why you knock on wood or feel nervous when the number 13 turns up in your life? In this lovely little animated short you’ll find some answers, as well as advice on whether you should start being more rational and ignoring superstitions:

So why do people cling to these bits of forgotten religions, coincidences, and outdated advice? Aren’t they being totally irrational? Well, yes, but for many people, superstitions are based more on cultural habit than conscious belief. After all, no one is born knowing to avoid walking under ladders or whistling indoors, but if you grow up being told by your family to avoid these things, chances are they’ll make you uncomfortable, even after you logically understand that nothing bad will happen…And since doing something like knocking on wood doesn’t require much effort, following the superstition is often easier than consciously resisting it.

Besides, superstitions often do seem to work. Maybe you remember hitting a home run while wearing your lucky socks. This is just our psychological bias at work – you’re far less likely to remember all the times you struck out while wearing the same socks. But believing that they work could actually make you play better, by giving you the illusion of having greater control over events. So in situations where that confidence can make a difference, like sports, those crazy superstitions might not be so crazy after all.

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