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Superstitious beliefs and the associative mind


Persistence of superstitions in the modern era could be justified by considering them as a by-product of the brain's capacity to detect associations and make assumptions about cause-effect relationships. This ability, which supports predictive behaviour, directly relates to associative learning. We tested whether variability in superstitious behaviour reflects individual variability in the efficiency of mechanisms akin to habit learning. Forty-eight individuals performed a Serial Reaction Time Task (SRTT) or an Implicit Cuing Task (ICT). In the SRTT, participants were exposed to a hidden sequence and progressively learnt to optimize responses, a process akin to skill learning. In the ICT participants met with a hidden association, which (if detected) provided a benefit (cf. habit learning). An index of superstitious beliefs was also collected. A correlation emerged between susceptibility to personal superstitions and performance at the ICT only. This novel finding is discussed in view of current ideas on how superstitions are instated.

Topic :  Aberglaube  
Format :    
Edition :  Consciousness and Cognition  
Country :  France 
Language  :  English 
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