Friday night topic: Are we all superstitious?

— 5:38 PM on September 8, 2006

Do you consider yourself a superstitious person? Perhaps not, but we seem to act irrationally at times, whether we realize it or not, according to Professor Bruce Hood. He uses a prop to illustrate:

The cardigan has been thoroughly cleaned and bears no trace of its original owner, Professor Bruce Hood tells his audience as he invites them to put it on.

But most people quickly reverse their decision to wear the garment when he explains that its owner was the infamous serial killer Fred West.

The association with evil is enough to cause disgust - even though the cardigan itself is innocuous and is not really linked to the Gloucester murderer at all.

People's reactions in this small test illustrate, Professor Hood says, that even the apparently very rational among us give more credibility to superstitious intuition than they realise.

Hood believes people are predisposed to superstition and irrational assumptions, such as associating personality traits with inanimate objects. All makes sense to me, but the question remains: would you wear that sweater? Why or why not? Discuss.

(Thanks to TR reader "liar" for suggesting this week's topic.)

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