The beliefs we as human beings hold are often based on little experimental research facts, however many individuals still find themselves clinging to their own superstitious beliefs. While one may lament the fact that so many people are willing to believe in irrational beliefs, it could be said that most individuals who have beliefs in supernatural powers (whether it be faith in god or faith in luck) have a desire to succeed and find happiness (Spörrle, Strobel, Tumasjan, 2010). Humanities general interest in superstition, myth, and other idealized beliefs often lead to ignorance of reality, and cause individuals to accept many folk psychological beliefs without much rational thought (Hilbig & Pohl, 2009). When one examines the greatest mythological stories, there are undoubtedly many absurd occurrences that seem very implausible to occur in our world; however there are almost always ounces of proverbial truths to be considered through these stories.
Cognitive psychologists would particularly be interested in the nature of superstitious beliefs because of the effect they may have on the mind. Superstitious beliefs are only beginning to be analyzed scientifically, and while our own subjective opinions may force our notions of whether or not superstitious beliefs effect an individual to three extremes: 1). They positively influence an individual, 2). They negatively influence an individual, or 3). They are simply ornaments or mental concepts that are neutral; it is undeniable that they are more common in our society than we may have originally expected (Day & Maltby, 2003). Herein lies the importance of experimental studies of superstitious beliefs and their effects on individuals.
One question a researcher must ask is, “Why do human beings believe superstitious beliefs, thoughts, ornaments, and actions will affect their lives?” While many may deem these beliefs as simply irrational, and therefore not worthy of scientific study; it is important that we acknowledge the numerous motivational effects superstitious beliefs may have on an individual (Eisold, 2008; Skinner, 1946). With motivation as a primary concern, research on superstitious beliefs seems to become more important.
Damisch, Stoberock, and Mussweiler (2010) suggest that superstitious beliefs may have a significant impact on an individuals’ perceived self-efficacy. The long reaching effects of how an individual perceives themselves, in terms of self-esteem, self-worth, and their individual capacity for achievement impact psychological fields of study far beyond a simple study related to the effect of superstitious beliefs. In the study of motivation, for example, there has been research done that begins to analyze the effects of positive beliefs on an individuals’ capacity to learn and achieve higher test scores (Bandura & Schunk, 1981).
Damisch et al. (2010) also note in their research of superstitious beliefs that superstition is positively correlated with increased performance. Even if these beliefs are not inherently grounded in reality, they may inadvertently produce subtle cognitive changes which lead to greater motivational output. Due to the previous findings of Damisch et al. (2010), it is expected that higher GPA scores will be correlated with lucky charm carriers.