Why am I not superstitious? Does that make me superior?

It seems that people have historically been freaked out by things like black cats crossing their path, or walking under ladders, or the number 13

Yet I do not follow these superstitions, which seem to be so popular.

Does that make me superior? Do I get a prize for it? How widely believed are these things? Why are people so superstitious? And why not me?

How widely believed?

Well, “belief” isn’t as simple as yes or no. Awareness of the superstitions is pretty high. I did a survey of over 100 students over the course of a few semesters about a particular superstiiton, asking them to rank their belief on the scale of 1 to 10. Consistently, the result was that belief hovered around 3.3 or 3.4 for the average, with many people marking 1 (no belief) and many marking 10 (solid belief), but people also checked every number in between. The same people who aren’t generally worried about #13 will avoid it in high-risk situations, not out of fear or even belief, but because the cost of going with the superstition is very low, and the benefits, while intangible, are non-zero given the cultural belief in luck / fate / karma.

It’s also worth noting that superstitions change over time. The internet will tell you that these and other superstitions originate in ancient Egypt / Greece / Babylonia / China / Rome / with the ancient Celts, but chances are pretty good they have assumed their current form since the Renaissance, and will change again in a few hundred years. Your great-grandkids might pat themselves on the back for not believing a pit bull is bad luck.

Yes. It’s unlucky to be superstitious.

I get more superstitious under stress. I think this is how it works for most people.

You don’t think you’re superstitious, but if you awoke the morning of your family’s flight with a strong sensation that you shouldn’t get on that plane, though you’d never experienced anything like it before, would your family get on that plane?

What if, at the airport your wife, out of the blue, confesses she is shocked to be feeling strongly about not getting on the plane. She’s knows no good reason not to, she just has this feeling. Never felt any such thing before. Would your family get on that plane?

I think most people who are superstitious maintain that belief at a minimal level. They probably know it’s pointless, but it makes them feel better, and as in the poll choice (not mine) is harmless. People who are thoroughly convinced of the validity of their superstitions may be anywhere from a little nutty, to totally irrational. But the superstitions may still be harmless.

elbows, I wouldn’t get on the plane in the circumstance you pose, because if my wife starts acting like that she’s going to make the whole trip miserable and make me wish something would go wrong with the plane. Luckily (groan), she doesn’t act that way very often.

I’m not at all superstitious, knock wood.

By definition #5, possibly. It depends on how smug you are.

I wouldn’t lump that in with superstition. I would assume that our brains have subconsciously caught some pattern. It may be a false pattern, but our intuition exists for a reason and I would probably listen to it, just in case.

Superstition has more to do with believing in luck. It’s believing that unrelated actions are actually related. It’s not embracing a negative feeling–or else nearly everyone is superstitious.

Magical Thinking.

I’m not superstitious, but I do occasionally wish very hard, even though really I have no expectation of it bearing fruit. Which is good, because it rarely turns out well after a wish, probably because any situation that is bad enough to get me to the wishing stage is already heading south, so it’s too late.

Good link. It reminded me of the term ‘quasi-magical thinking’

“Quasi-magical thinking” describes “cases in which people act as if they erroneously believe that their action influences the outcome, even though they do not really hold that belief”.

When people use body english at the bowling alley or on the golf course, that’s what’s going on. Same thing as shouting ‘Go - Go - Go’ at a football player on the TV. Most people don’t think they’ve developed telekinesis, it’s just a way of expressing desire.

It’s dangerous to be superstitious. Someone is always after me lucky charms.

Or like saying knock on wood, throwing salt over your shoulder if you’ve spilt some, never putting an umbrella up indoors, all of which I do. I don’t actually think anything bad will happen, but I kinda like the routine and the, er, quaintness of it, for want of a better word. They’re also the kind that don’t have any negative consequences, like Dr Drake says.

I’ve recently done some work for the census, checking out addresses where they couldn’t deliver questionnaires. A lot of them are flat 13, which always turns out not to exist. I bet it’s partly superstition and partly down to people assuming that other people are superstitious - that, when it comes to selling on flat 13, they’ll get a lower price than the owners of the otherwise identical flats 12 and 14.

I think even those that admit to being superstitious don’t really believe anything good/bad will happen because they do/don’t do something but are thinking “just in case”. Common superstitions are fairly uninstrusive and easy to abide by, so why not? It’s not that much harder to walk around a ladder than under it so, let’s do that “just in case”.

Not really related but I remember in high school I had this serious stomach cramp while on the bus and I promised myself I’ll start believing in God if I didn’t shit my pants. Well I didn’t shit my pants but I’m still agnostic.:dubious:
…Just something I wanted to share.

I would call myself not superstitious, but dammit, baseball announcers, don’t say that our pitcher never has any trouble with their hitter! You’ll jinx him!

In sports fandom, sometimes the fun is in acting as if the superstitions are true.

I believe “walking under a ladder is bad luck” stems from the risk of the workman up the ladder dropping something on you, so it is in fact reasonably good advice.

Well see, one of the most helpful things I’ve learned in life so far is, “Everybody different.” Sorta like, “To each his own.”

Different people, and different cultures, and different generations, are constituted differently from each other; what makes sense to one is irrational to another; what works for one is folly for another; what just feels right to one is ridiculous to another.

This does not make either one “wrong,” or “better,” or “ridiculous.” or “superior.” It just makes them different.

Really, there is no rational arbitrary yardstick by which one could reliably judge oneself to be superior to others. I think that even when the I Ching talks about “the Superior Man” doing this or that thing, it means “superior to the way he would be otherwise.” I.e., superior to himself.