Walking under a ladder. A black cat crossing your path. Lighting three cigarettes on a single match. Do these things make you nervous? If so, you’re not alone. Superstition is both a common and powerful thing, and Kansas State researchers have recently been exploring superstitious behavior to understand the hows and whys behind it.
The studies, led by recent Kansas State bachelor’s graduate Scott Fluke along with psychology graduate student Russell Webster and associate professor Donald Saucier, explore the personality traits that lend themselves to degrees of belief in superstition.
In the first study, the researchers conducted questionnaires with 200 undergraduates, asking about how pessimistic they were, whether they believed in chance or fate, if they liked to be in control and other questions. One of the major discoveries was that people who believe that chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.
This doesn’t exactly seem like breaking news. After all, those that leave everything in the hands of destiny are more likely to notice small signs and interpret them in ways that seem most meaningful to them.
In the second study the researchers wanted to know how participants reacted to death, and asked them to write about how they felt about their own death. The team was surprised to find that participants’ levels of superstition went down when they thought about their own death, which the researchers attributed to death being a situation of extreme uncertainty.