If reading my ramblings is not enough rugbyologist for you, you can listen to me ramble melodiously as I attempt to explain my first ever blog post,“Why People Believe Silly Things”, in a interview with Desiree Schell for the “Speaking Up” segment of Skeptically Speaking Friday, 27 August 2010 at 6PM (MDT). For those of you not lucky enough to live within the broadcast radius of 88.5FM CJSR in Edmonton, Alberta, you can listen to the pre-recorded interview live-ish on the Skeptically Speaking UStream feed or download the podcast come Monday.
In a paper in Science from October 2008, Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky report that placing people in situations where they lack control increases the false perception of patterns because of a need to impose structure on even random events.
This study is very interesting because it helps us understand why we develop superstitions and the like, which are based on false pattern recognition. It does not, however, speculate on why some of those superstitions take hold and last (e.g., buildings without thirteenth floors) and some do not (e.g., my efforts to get my tee ball team to wear pink socks after a 3-4, 4RBI game and a laundry accident).
I, however, am not above some wild speculation. The defense of superstitions, quack medical treatments, etc. frequently goes like this: A medical treatment works or it does not work. If it works, people who use the treatment are more likely to live, people who don’t are more likely to die and the treatment keeps getting used. If it does not work, people who use the treatment are more likely to die, people who don’t are more likely to live and the treatment stops getting used. That makes intuitive sense. It sounds a lot like selection, and we like selection. Continue reading “Why People Believe Silly Things”