A new study says that people who believe in fate are more superstitious, but the same people, when faced with death, abandon all their beliefs
Kansas State University researcher Scott Fluke and his colleagues focused on personality traits that lead to superstition.
They defined superstition as the belief in a casual relationship between an action, object, or ritual and an unrelated outcome. Such superstitious behaviour can include actions like wearing a lucky jersey or using good luck charms.
They found three reasons for superstitious behaviour - to gain control over uncertainty; to decrease feelings of helplessness; and because it is easier to rely on superstition instead of coping strategies.
"People sometimes fall back on their superstitions as a handicap. It's a parachute they think will help them out," said Donald Saucier.
The first study established that people who believe that chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious. But the second study revealed that the same people when faced with the idea of death, let go of all their beliefs.
"What we didn't expect was that thinking about death would make people feel helpless-like they cannot control it-and that this would actually reduce their superstitious belief," Fluke said.
The idea behind the research was to find why people do things that don't make sense, he said.
"It boggled me that people would use a good luck charm to do well on a test rather than studying for it. We wanted to know why people would go about almost actively hurting themselves," Fluke added.