Saturday, August 9, 2014

Believing In Magic: The Psychology of Superstition

Being around and playing sports my entire life, I am used to certain rituals and superstitions. However, you do not have to be around sports to recognize different superstitions. Most people understand that Friday the 13th is supposed to be an unlucky day, four leaf clovers are lucky, and that walking under a ladder will bring you bad luck. Have you ever stopped to think what makes certain superstitions bad or good? Why do we even have them? Well, when going through the book report options I came across a book called “Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstitions” by Stuart Vyes and I immediately knew what book I was going to choose.

Here is a funny short animated film about superstitions and I think it describes them in a funny, but accurate way.

Most people do not know why we believe in superstitions or even have them for that matter, but Stuart does an amazing job explaining why we feel the need to incorporate them into our everyday lives. Like I said most people do not even know why we have superstitions or where they come from, Stuart explains that for most people we use them as an escape route. People strive to have control and an understanding of their own lives and when a weird coincidence occurs it is easier for us to assume it is simply because of a superstition. However, most of the time we are connecting two situations in a cause and effect relationship, which do not seem to correlate. This is actually one of the cons that Stuart mentions about superstitions, someone would rather think something bad happened to them because they broke a mirror; instead of realizing it may have only been a coincidence. Stuart explains how people may become too obsessed and concerned with this type of thinking and it actually, in the long run, can completely alter their behavior, increase stress, and increase anxiety.

Stuart never really states if he thinks superstitions are right or wrong, he does mention some cons of superstitions, but he also mentions some pros for them as well. He explains how superstitions, when used correctly, are a powerful way to decrease stress and anxiety. From a psychological standpoint, these superstitions are a comfort zone for people. When the unknown or unusual situations scare them, it is easy for people to find a state of physical ease and freedom through superstitions.

All in all, I thought “Believing In Magic” was a great book and something I think may people would enjoy reading. Stuart Vyes provides excellent information and insight and explains both sides of superstitions. My favorite part of the book, by far, was the small section talking about superstitions and sports. I thought it was so interesting to hear about crazy superstitions and rituals that many professional athletes would go through everyday and every game. For instance, former Buffalo Bills Quarterback, Jim Kelly, would force himself to vomit before every game and this was something he had been doing since high school! Former New York Mets pitcher, Turk Wendell, would brush his teeth between innings and was actually named the most superstitious athlete of all time by Men’s Fitness Magazine. Being able to read about different things professional athletes did and how superstitions actually can benefit you when it comes to sports was so enjoyable and interesting.

Here is a interesting video I found about the top 25 superstitions today, some of them are pretty odd!

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