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K-State research project offers insight into superstitious behavior
Date:9/2/2010

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- People who believe that fate and chance control their lives are more likely to be superstitious -- but when faced with death they are likely to abandon superstition altogether, according to a recent Kansas State University undergraduate research project.

The project, led by Scott Fluke, a May 2010 K-State bachelor's graduate in psychology, Olathe, focuses on personality traits that lead to superstition. Fluke received a $500 Doreen Shanteau Undergraduate Research Fellowship in 2009 to work with the team of Russell Webster, graduate student in psychology, Shorewood, Ill., and Donald Saucier, K-State associate professor of psychology.

For the project, "Re-Examining the Form and Function of Superstition," the team defined superstition as the belief in a casual relationship between an action, object, or ritual and an unrelated outcome. Such superstitious behavior can include actions like wearing a lucky jersey or using good luck charms.

After performing two studies, the researchers developed three reasons for superstitious behavior: individuals use superstitions 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," Saucier said. "It's a parachute they think will help them out."

In the first study, the researchers conducted questionnaires with 200 undergraduates, asking about how pessimistic they were, whether they believed in chance or fate, if they liked to be in control and other questions. One of the major discoveries was that people who believe that chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.

In the second study the researchers wanted to know how participants reacted to death, and asked them to write about how they felt about their own death. The team was surprised to find that participants' levels o
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Contact: Donald Saucier
saucier@k-state.edu
785-532-6881
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert

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