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Lack of control seen fueling superstitions
The need for structure or understanding leads people to trick themselves into seeing and making connections that do not exist, said Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas at Austin.
"When we lack control we are going to see and seek out patterns, sometimes even false patterns, to regain our sense of control," said Whitson, whose research appears in the journal Science.
Baseball players are a prime example.
"Everybody knows the classic superstitious baseball player with their lucky T-shirt and the particular thing they have to do before they step up to the plate," Whitson said in an audio interview on the Science website.
She and colleague Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, suspected lack of control was at the heart of many rituals, superstitions and conspiracy theories.
To prove it, they conducted a series of experiments in which they manipulated control in different ways -- for instance by asking people to answer a series of questions, then randomly telling half of them they were making mistakes.
Then the volunteers had to find patterns. In one task, they were asked to find faint images in grainy patterns of dots. Half of the pictures had images and the others were random dots. While people in both groups correctly spotted the images, the group that felt they lacked control from a previous part of the experiment also "saw" images in 43 percent of pictures that were not there.
"We manipulated lack of control and showed the need for structure increased," Whitson said.
While people in both groups correctly spotted the images, the group that felt they lacked control from a previous part of the experiment also "saw" images in 43 percent of pictures that were not there.
Originally posted by FewWorldOrder
From the OP's link,
How do they know that the 'images' that some of the participants 'saw' were not there?
(edit-pardon my insecurity, but couldn't one consider a lack of a pattern, a pattern in itself?...)
Originally posted by ziggystar60
I found this very interesting article in Scientific American today. Researchers claim that "lack of control can lead rational people to see patterns even where no true pattern exists":
Originally posted by Buck Division
Also, I don't know if "lack of control" should be necessarily identified as a problem. An obvious example is someone who controls their fear perfectly -- they take unnecessary risks and eventually die in an easily avoided accident.