Why do people believe in superstitions

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Do you believe in Friday 13th or four leaved clovers?

A very large number of people strongly believe in the bad luck that comes after breaking a mirror, encountering a black cat or choosing the number 13.

Some people believe that passing below a ladder can bring bad luck, others believe that four leaved clovers can bring good luck while a third group believe that carrying a rabbit's foot can bring good luck.

The question now is why do people believe in such things instead of believing that they have full control over their destiny?

Here is the quick answer: Those people don't want to believe that they have full control because it scares them, in other words, they believe in superstitions because it makes them feel safe.

why do people believe in superstitions

  • 1) Because they are lazy: I once wrote an article about doing your best to get what you want in life and then a friend told me that you don't even have to do any effort to get what you want but you just have to wait for the universe to bring it to you. Try not to study before an important exam and lets see if the universe will help you get good grades. because most people are lazy they prefer to believe that they don't have to do a lot of effort in order to get what they want. After all, carrying a rabbit's foot is much easier than studying hard or training all day long
  • 2) To feel in control: People hate to find themselves lacking control and as a result some of them start to believe in superstitious ideas in order to feel in control. Those people usually think that way: As long as am staying away from black cats and avoiding walking under leaders i wont get bad luck. Because the desire to stay in control is so strong many people find superstitious beliefs very appealing
  • 3) Because they are Insecure: Courage is the most rare personality trait. No i am not talking about the courage needed to fight a bully but i am talking about the courage needed to believe that you are responsible for whatever happens in your life. Because most people lack courage they prefer to believe that they are not responsible for the events happening in their lives. If a person admitted that he is in control of his life then he didn't succeed he might feel bad about himself but when he believes that he didn't succeed because he wasn't lucky life becomes much brighter (see also Why you have bad luck)

But some of these things are really true, i tried them myself

I know what came to your mind now. You tried some of these things before and they actually worked, remember how horrible was the last Friday 13th? or remember how lucky you were when you held that 4 leafed clover?

I will answer your question by explaining how the mind works. Your mind was designed to selectively collect clues that proves its existing beliefs true. In other words if you believe in Friday 13th then most probably you will ignore all good events that happen on that day and focus on the bad ones.

If you broke a mirror you will focus on the bad events and ignore the good ones for as long as you believe the bad luck lasts.

In addition the placebo effect further solidifies these superstitious beliefs you hold. if you believe a rabbit's foot can make you perform better then you will actually perform better just because your mind will program itself to prove your beliefs true.(see The subconscious mind)

If one day you dropped that rabbit's foot without noticing then you will still perform better just because you believe that its still in your pocket.

in brief, you believe in superstitions because you need to not because they are true.

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