subject of superstition has been researched by numerous investigators each
using a variety of approaches. Some researchers use an approach that
focuses on paranormal beliefs in superstition. Others use a behavioral
approach to study superstition.
B. F. Skinner
was the first researcher to link behavioral research to paranormal beliefs.
Skinner studied pigeons in operant chambers and found that in variable-interval
trials, pigeons would perform an action oriented toward certain areas of
the cage. These behaviors were not necessary to receiving a food
reward, but the pigeons believed the behaviors were.
Control is an attributional style which describes how one believes in luck
and how luck affects outcomes in one's life. One with a more external
locus of control believes that fate, charms and other ideas often unrelated
to a situation, can change the outcome of that particular situation positively
or negatively. One with a more internal locus of control believes
that one can change one's own luck through one's own efforts.
and Locus of Control are often paired in research, but conclusions are
often not strong. In behavioral research, very little correlation
has been performed, and those that have are insignificant. In paranormal
research, superstition often correlates negativey with locus of control.
That is, as locus of control becomes more internal, superstition becomes
What is the relationship between superstition and one's personal beliefs?
were selected from a small Northeast College of Roman Catholic affiliation.
A total of twenty-eight participants engaged in a two part study which
lasted about one hour.
began by taking the Internal/External Locus of Control Scale-Revised.
This questionnaire determines one's locus of control on a scale ranging
from highly external (low scores) to highly internal (high scores) control.
were then required to play blackjack. The tournament style blackjack
had very few rules modifications from Las Vegas style blackjack and consisted
of twenty hands. The games were video recorded and scored using multiple
raters at a later time. Raters were instructed to look for behaviors
that could be considered superstitious. Only those behaviors which
all raters agreed to as superstitious were scored.
superstition scores were determined and three superstition subscores were
calculated. A total superstition score was determined which considered
all behaviors that would be considered superstitious. This included
betting patterns. It was found that more than 66% of the participants
engaged in bet patterns regularly in superstitious ways. Many participants
verbally admitted to these behaviors. Bet pattern superstitions would
include how many credits one would bet. For example, if one would lose,
one may return to a bet of two. If one wins, one may continue the
same bet until one loses. If one deviates from a winning bet and
loses, one would return to the original winning bet.
subscore eliminated bet patterns and found that only seven participants
engaged in superstitious behavior not using bet behaviors.
A third subscore
was determined that used the same requirements as the second subscore,
but eliminated participants that did not engage in superstitious behavior.
was found in the third subscore where a moderate negative correlation suggested
that superstition may be dependent on locus of control, but can be a property
of both internal and external locus of control. The correlation suggests
that as one's locus of control becomes more internal, one's belief in superstition
is not as strong.
from this research suggest that superstition and locus of control are dependent
upon each other. In addition, those with internal locus of control
are capable of displaying superstitious behavior. This research suggests
that locus of control can be investigated with behavioral superstition
even though historically it has not been a focus of many studies.
research suggests that behavioral superstition can be investigated with
locus of control, and previous research suggests that paranormal superstition
can be investigated with locus of control, it seems that research from
this point on should not discriminate between paranormal and behavioral
superstition and treat it as one behavioral concept.
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