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🔢 Key Takeaways

  1. While some people believe in superstitions and supernatural phenomena as cultural or coping mechanisms, they are irrational. Despite this, the psychic services industry and astrology apps continue to thrive in America.
  2. Superstitions are common and can benefit psychological well-being. While rationality is important, embracing some superstitious beliefs can provide a sense of control in high-stress environments. Even scientists can be influenced by superstitions surrounding their equipment.
  3. Though superstitions have no direct impact on performance or outcome, they provide a sense of control and motivation for success. Examples include Barack Obama playing basketball on election day and Wade Boggs eating chicken before every game.
  4. Belief in sports curses can obscure the true factors behind a team's success or failure, but balance of preparation, skill, and luck is key to achieving success in sports and life.
  5. Luck may play a role in some sports outcomes, but data analysis suggests probability has a larger impact. Belief in curses and superstitions can affect performance, but it is important to remain rational.
  6. Statistically, there is no connection between an athlete's appearance on a magazine cover and their performance, and the human tendency to seek patterns can lead to overemphasizing perceived correlations.
  7. Superstitious beliefs, such as curses and jinxes, have no basis in reality and can negatively affect performance. It is important to recognize chance and skill and focus on practical solutions rather than relying on irrational beliefs.
  8. Curses and superstitions provided a cost-effective way to maintain order in societies with limited resources. They were used to protect property rights and deter criminal behavior.
  9. Religious curses were a means of protecting property rights in medieval France, as even the bad guys had a strong belief in their power. However, as society became wealthier, practical means of protection replaced superstitions.
  10. Despite scientific progress, society still holds on to traditional beliefs and practices. This can impact important fields, like law enforcement, and everyday life. It is important to critically evaluate these beliefs and question their usefulness.
  11. Knitting can provide emotional support and a confidence boost in addition to being a relaxing hobby. It requires patience and skill to create intricate projects, but the benefits are well worth the time and effort.
  12. Knitting a sweater for someone takes time and effort, and not everyone may appreciate it. The idea of 'knit-worthy' emphasizes the recipient's appreciation and may spare the knitter from disappointment.
  13. Handmade gifts hold special value and become treasured possessions. They are imbued with all the emotions and sentiments of the giver, making them almost like a pet.
  14. Superstitions can impact our behavior, even if we don't fully believe in them. It's important to question their validity and be aware of their influence on our daily lives.

📝 Podcast Notes

The Psychology of Superstition and the Belief in the Supernatural

A significant number of people in America believe in various superstitions and supernatural phenomena, such as astrology, spells, and witchcraft. While some common fears like Triskaidekaphobia or fear of the number 13 exist, others are unusual, such as the belief that licking food off a knife can make one cruel. Stuart Vyse, a retired psychology professor and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, explains that superstition is irrational, yet a large number of people still believe in it. While some superstitions may have cultural roots, others serve as coping mechanisms for anxiety and uncertain times. The $2 billion psychic services industry and the popularity of astrology-based apps like Co-Star further highlight this belief in the supernatural.

Superstitions and Their Role in Science and Society

The United States has a disproportionately high number of superstitious beliefs and religiosity, with studies suggesting that humanities and art majors are more likely to hold superstitions than natural science majors. However, scientists themselves are also susceptible to superstitions, as they can be easily influenced by the superstitions surrounding their equipment. Superstitions are a part of human nature and provide psychological benefits like lowered anxiety and a sense of control especially in high-stress environments. Although encouraging reason and rationality is essential, acknowledging the gray area surrounding superstitions and the benefits they provide can make them useful tools in certain situations.

The Role of Superstitions in Sports and Politics

Superstitions, such as specific actions or rituals, are common in sports and politics. While studies show that good athletes are more likely to have superstitions, it does not necessarily prove that the superstitions work. Superstitions often provide a sense of control for the athlete or individual involved. Examples of sports superstitions include Barack Obama playing basketball on election day and Wade Boggs eating chicken before every game. Political superstitions are also present, such as the belief that shaking too many hands can lead to losing an election. Ultimately, while superstitions may not have a direct impact on performance or outcome, it serves as a psychological comfort and motivator for success.

The Role of Superstitions in Sports Culture

The Curse of the Bambino and the Bobby Layne curse are two popular examples of sports superstitions, but they are based on a misunderstanding of probabilities. The outcome of a sporting event is a combination of skill and luck, and the belief in curses can obscure the real reasons why a team loses. Despite this, curses and jinxes continue to fascinate sports fans and add to the mythology of sports. The success of the New York Yankees and the failures of the Detroit Lions are often used as evidence for these curses, but a closer examination reveals the real reasons behind these outcomes. Ultimately, the key to success in sports (and in life) is a balance of preparation, skill, and luck.

The Role of Luck and Probability in Sports Outcomes

The debate on whether luck or fate governs sporting outcomes is ongoing, and while some think certain events are due to fate, data analysis suggests that probability plays a larger role. In sports with a low score count, such as basketball, luck is less likely to play a significant part in outcomes, while sports like soccer are more susceptible to luck. However, the belief in curses is still prevalent in sports, with some players going as far as breaking superstitions to break them. It is important for people to believe in the rational world to avoid letting superstitions affect their performance.

No Correlation Between Athlete Magazine Covers and Performance

Appearing on the cover of Sports Illustrated or the Madden game does not increase the likelihood of an athlete getting injured or performing worse afterwards, according to statistical data and regression to the mean. The tendency for humans to seek patterns and coincidence can overemphasize the perceived correlation between an athlete's appearance on a magazine cover and their subsequent performance.

Understanding Superstitions, Curses, and their Impact on Performance

Superstitions and curses have been present since the beginning of civilization, often used by magicians from the street for personal vendettas. In modern times, sports fans and athletes often believe in curses and jinxes that affect their performance. However, these beliefs do not have any basis in reality, as they rely on confirmation bias and cherry-picked examples. It is important to recognize the role of chance and skill in sports and other activities, instead of relying on superstitious beliefs. Understanding the history and psychology behind curses can help individuals break free from such irrational beliefs and focus on practical solutions.

How Curses and Superstitions Served as Early Forms of Social Control

In societies with fewer resources, superstitions like curses perform an important governance function. They can provide a low-cost alternative to professional police services and a judiciary. In medieval Europe, trials by ordeal were used to determine guilt or innocence. Curses also played an institutional role in protecting property rights. Communities of monks and canons, who were among the largest property holders, resorted to divine curses when they were threatened by strongmen. These curses called upon God or saints to harm individuals who were harming the cleric's property. Ancient maledictions were used in these curses which date back to the late 10th century.

The Power of Religious Curses in Medieval France

During the 10th through 12th centuries in France, curses issued by religious clerics were a means of protecting property rights from strongmen and other potential plunderers, as even the bad guys had a strong religious belief in the power of curses. Although there were limits to the effectiveness of curses due to their vague and unverifiable nature, they were still a useful tool for enforcing property rights. As society became wealthier, superstitions were replaced with more practical means of protecting property rights.

The Persistence of Superstitions and Traditions in Modern Society

Superstitions and traditions still have a place in modern society, even in areas as crucial as law enforcement. The use of lie detector tests, despite being scientifically unreliable and mostly inadmissible, is still heavily relied upon in the investigative phase of criminal justice. Similarly, while the American legal system has moved away from mandatory Bible-swearing, the act of oath-swearing remains prevalent in courtrooms. Moreover, there are still superstitions present in daily life, such as the sweater curse in knitting. These examples show that the tendency to hold on to certain beliefs, despite their lack of scientific grounding, cannot be completely eradicated.

Knitting for Relaxation and Fulfillment

Knitting is not just a hobby but also a therapeutic activity that helps people relax. Ash Mierzejek, a corporate strategy consultant turned expert knitter, discovered the calming effects of knitting during her long commutes for work. Creating intricate projects like sweaters requires skill and patience, costing around $150 and taking up to 100 hours of labor to complete. Despite not selling her creations, Mierzejek values the emotional support and confidence boost she gets from knitting. This simple practice has helped her switch careers and find fulfillment in life.

The Truth Behind the Sweater Curse and What It Means for Knitters

The sweater curse may not be based on a supernatural belief, but it is a real disappointment that knitters experience. Making a sweater requires a significant commitment and may not have the same value to the recipient. The potential heartbreak involved in knitting a sweater for someone is a rational explanation for the curse. Additionally, it takes a long time to knit a sweater by hand, and the statistic that 60% of new couples don't last a year may also contribute to the curse. The concept of 'knit-worthy' highlights the importance of the recipient appreciating the effort that went into making a hand-knit gift.

The Value of Handmade Gifts made with Love and Hard Work

Handmade gifts, especially those made with love and hard work, hold special value and become treasures that are almost like pet, imbued with all the giver's emotions and sentiments.

The Power of Unknowingly Adopting Superstitions

Superstitions can have a hold on us, even if we don't think we believe in them. The story of the author visiting Franco Harris's mother and being warned not to clink glasses of water due to bad luck is an example of how we can unknowingly adopt superstitious beliefs from others. Even though we may not believe in superstitions wholeheartedly, they can still influence our behavior and become ingrained in our daily lives. It's important to be aware of these beliefs and question their validity to avoid being unduly influenced by them.