Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Book Report: Believing in Magic the Psychology of Superstition

          This book written by Stuart Vyse is all about the crazy superstitions that people have from all walks of life and why they are superstitious people. Professional sports players, college students, and gamblers. But also some of the psychology behind those superstitions. Facial features might have a role to play or even the shape of your body. Lots of children also grow up superstitious as well. Is superstition abnormal well turns out it is not. It is not irrational or abnormal when everyone does it.
           The chapter I liked the most was the one about superstitious people. In the beginning how it talks about Nancy Reagan and her using an astrologer to advise her. She made sure the planets were in a favorable alignment. Also how that caused the president to cancel some speeches and press conferences. It just shows that in even the highest position in government superstition still has a role to play. I really found the part about the college students and exams part fascinating. Since I am one myself. How some wore certain pieces of clothing or used a special pen during an exam. I find this interesting  because something that I do when taking an exam is if I am wearing a jacket I always take it off right before I start taking the exam even though if it was just a normal lecture I would still be wearing it. I think subconsciously I think I will do better without the jacket restricting me. Superstition might have something to do with personality but it is hard to tell.
        The chapter about superstitious thinking talks about how we go about superstitions. How lots of times humans are irrational rather than rational. This can tie into the idea of heuristics mentioned in the first lecture. The book mentions that cognitive have discovered these things. A quote from the book " we make erroneous conclusions, show biased judgement, and ignore important information..... superstitious thinking stems from misunderstandings of probability, random processes, errors of logical reasoning, and cognitive shortcuts that sacrifice accuracy."(Vyse 95). How we show biases and how that relates to confirmation bias. How we misunderstand things with the law of small numbers which can cause us to sacrifice accuracy. The conjunction fallacy and how is causes us not think about logical probability. The combination of all these things causes us to believe in some kind of superstition that does not make to much sense.
         While looking for supplemental material about superstitions I found this ted talk video that Stuart Vyse made. In which he tries to explains where some superstitions come from. Like how the number 13 being unlucky comes from the bible and how Jesus last supper was him and 12 other people. Knocking on wood comes from ancient Indo-European who would knock on tree since they believed the tree had a spirit inside and once knocked on would give them protection from the spirit or give them the blessing of the spirit. Italians fear the number 17 because the roman numeral can be rearranged to form the word meaning my life had ended. Most superstitions are based on cultural habit not conscious decisions.

          You could potentially use the science behind superstitions to solve other kinds of things about humans. Maybe you could use the data for a different research idea. Help you solve some other weird behavior that humans do.

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