Saturday, April 25, 2020

Book report- Believing in Magic

The book I chose for this class was Believing in Magic by Stuart A. Vyse. The book talks about superstitions throughout time.
The author states, “superstition is a belief or notion not based on a reason or knowledge in or of the ominous significance of a particular thing,
circumstance, occurrence, proceeding, or the like.”  The book talks about superstitions throughout different cultures, religions,
genders, within animals, sports, students, gamblers, ect. Vyse talks a lot about superstitions from a psychology perspective. 
In chapter one, the author uses college students in an experiment. I thought it was interesting how the college students witnessed
the sugar being transported into a container labeled sodium cyanide and refused to eat it. Even though the students knew it was
sugar they still were disgusted because of the label it was given. Another study showed that students thought the taste of fudge changed because of the shape.
The students thought it was disgusting when the fudge was in the shape of animal feces. I thought it was interesting how
the change in a label or shape and change someone's desire for food. 
In chapter two, Vyse talks about college students being very superstitious when it came to test taking. One student shared that wearing
a suit was inconvenient because it was hot but improved his test performance. Another superstition that is widely popular among college students is a “special” pen.
Some students believe it's the pen that helps them on the test. The superstition that I thought was the most interesting was a student who
refused to take a test unless they found a coin on the ground before the test. In his case, the coin represented good luck.
Even non religious students would pray before exams. It's obvious that textbooks are not allowed during exams, but in some cases
students said being able to see the cover of their textbook helped them with the exam. This section of the book made me realize how superstitions can take over someone's life. 
In chapter three, the book talks about Skinner and how he trained pigeons. I thought it was interesting how humans
and animals quickly learn how to make connections. In this section he talks about how fast the pigeons learned that pecking while the light was
green would give them food but if they pecked while the light was red they wouldn't receive food. The point of this experiment was to see
if people and animals can acquire superstitious behavior through operant conditioning. After a couple tries the pigeon realizes they only receive
a reward if they peck while the light was green. Skinner wanted to see if the behavior was different with a different pigeon. Skinner found that one
of the pigeons thought the speed of their pecking made a difference, but in reality it didn't matter how fast or how slow the pecking was.
The book made me realize that even animals have superstitions. 
I really enjoyed reading Believing in Magic by Stuart A. Vyse. I think I liked the first few chapters more because they were more relatable to my life. There are more experiments towards the end of the book that I did not connect with. I think the book was easy to follow and very interesting. If you want to read more you can always look up the experiments are the doctors who ran the experiments. Vyse did a good job covering psychology of superstitions.
The Skinner Box or Operant Conditioning Chamber

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