A Conversation for Superstitions

The Causes of Superstition

Post 1


It seems to me that there is a very good reason for people being superstitious...

Basically, the human mind hasn't evolved to cope with complex situations by working out the principles behind them; most of the time, that isn't necessary. Instead, the brain is exceptionally good as spotting patterns. If you eat a particular type of food and don't feel too good afterwards, no problem... but if it happens a few times, you'll gain a pretty strong dislike of that type of food.

Most of human knowledge about the real world, a couple of thousand years ago, was in the form 'if you do this, this'll happen,' or, 'if this happens, that'll happen next.'

So... how does this relate to superstition? All it takes is a couple of coincidences - and coincidences happen all the time - for people to form an association between a particular event and another, completely unrelated, event. If a person becomes concious of this association, they're likely to communicate it to other people - and since this kind of information is *likely* to be useful (e.g. someone telling you that a particular type of plant is poisonous), your instict is to take notice of it.

Basically, it boils down to people letting trial and error and communication do their thinking for them. Which worked fine ten thousand years ago, but nowadays we're quite capable of working things out for ourselves...

That's what I reckon, anyway. Maybe you heard something different?

*evil grin*

The Causes of Superstition

Post 2


i don't believe in superstition... it brings bad luck

The Causes of Superstition

Post 3

Queex Quimwrangler (Not Egon)

I always thought superstition was caused by a lack of oxygen to the brain... smiley - bigeyes

The Causes of Superstition

Post 4


What really gets on my tits is astrology - there's been several quite conclusive studies that if you give mixed up horoscopes (wrong starsign) to people who believe in it, they rate them on average as highly as ones 'genuinely' written for their starsigns. And the detailed one-to-one sessions have been shown to be a combination of psycology, counseling, shrewd guesses and cheating which have been reproduced in tests by non-astrologers to the satisfaction of 'believers'.
Most people don't take it seriously but some run their lives by it and it's really sad when it leads to such things as 'I really love x and want to be with them and they love me, but I'm going to give them up because the stars say our love is doomed'. How did this particular superstition get to be so (relatively) strong today when many others are dying out? Is it just because the media latched on to it? Are the Victorians to blame or something?

The Causes of Superstition

Post 5


No, superstitions go back to the dawn of civilization, when people thought that earthquakes were caused by angry gods for not sacrificing any virgins lately.

Still, I think you pretty much hit the mark on the psychological issues there. In my opinion, horoscopes are just lucky guesses (though, in my experience, my horoscope is EXACTLY one week behind, which is creepy).

The Causes of Superstition

Post 6

Cheerful Dragon

Yesterday, just for fun, I had a look at my horoscope on Netscape. It was way out. I also had a look at what they called my 'Careerscope', i.e., how things are going / will go career-wise, based on my star sign. I have never read so much complete drivel in my life.

I'm a Pisces, and all the personality descriptions of Pisces that I have read don't seem to relate to me. There was even one book that claimed that all Pisceans shared certain characteristics looks-wise, notably small hands and feet and protruding eyes. My hands are large for a woman, my feet are average (slightly wide, in fact) and my eyes certainly don't protrude.

Personality-wise, I've always found Chinese horoscopes slightly more accurate, but then they're not churned out on a daily basis. According to Western horoscopes, my relationship with my husband is more-or-less doomed - we're both Pisces. According to Chinese horoscopes, we're a perfect match - he's a Rat and I'm a Dragon. Chinese horoscopes got my relationship with each of my parents right, too.

The Causes of Superstition

Post 7


The classic clash between the occidental and oriental cultures...

Actually, both horoscopes work equally for me... always late in their predictions...

Though when they do work, I randomly choose another zodiac sign (or chinese animal) just for kicks to see what happens... usually, but not always, it turns out that their predictions work out just as well as my own zociac sign/animal

The Causes of Superstition

Post 8


Ah, but shall we revert to more superstitions now? Superstitions as in 'childish ritual magic' to combat the lack of control in life? Not to explain what's happening, but to try to corral it?

The Causes of Superstition

Post 9

Phryne- 'Best Suppurating Actress'

Feng Shui. Another thing latched on to with glee by Westerners... and another that is only half-understood. The traditional Chinese method decrees that, for it to be effective, you must build your entire house according to its principles. We, of course, adopt the 'shove a few pot plants about' approach. Sad, really, when so much paper's been wasted on it. This part-digestion of what originally were sound beliefs is depressing- it only leads to them being ridiculed unfairly.
I'm quite fond of the I-Ching. That's not only often scarily relevent, but is a joy to trawl through if you like archaic symbolism.

The Causes of Superstition

Post 10

Cheerful Dragon

I've posted this comment somewhere else but I can't recall where, so here goes again!

I saw a program a few weeks ago on U.K.'s Channel 4. The program was about horoscopes and the extent to which some people run their lives, and also their companies, by them. Although astrology and horoscopes have been around for a long time, the idea of grouping together all the people born under a given star-sign and doing a universal horoscope only dates back to the 20s or 30s. It was, of course, dreamed up by the newspapers. Before then, even if someone knew their star-sign they would never consider that they might have the same horoscope as someone born in the same 30 day period. People did have horoscopes plotted, if they could afford it, but this involved the use of up to 1400 (that's not a typo) variables. Modern horoscopes haven't got a chance of getting it right! (Mind you, in my opinion, neither have the old ones.)

The Causes of Superstition

Post 11


Got to agree on this point. I mean, if horoscopes were true there'd only be twelve types of people in the world, right?

The Causes of Superstition

Post 12

Cheerful Dragon

Some time ago, I was interested in applying Feng Shui to our house, as far as possible. As part of the process, you have to work out the Kau numbers for the people living in the house (or the main adults, anyway). Depending on your Kau number, certain compass points (N, NE, E, etc.) are good, others not so good, another group a bit bad, others very bad. You're supposed to accentuate the good directions and shy away from the bad ones. Where two people live in the same house, you go for the directions that are good / fairly good for both. That's where I hit a major snag. Richard's good / fairly good directions coincide with my bad / fairly bad directions, and vice versa. This means that we can't use Feng Shui. Not that I mind. Our house suits us fine as it is!

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