Lack of Control Breeds Superstition

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 5, 2008 10:35 AM CDT
Milwaukee Brewers relief pitcher Guillermo Mota leaps over the first base line on Sunday, June 15, 2008, in Milwaukee.   (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
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(Newser) – Superstitions and conspiracy theories all boil down to control issues, a new study says. When subjects in a University of Texas test were made to feel out of control, they saw more patterns that did not exist—whether images in a fuzzy picture or links between unconnected actions. Which is why people like investors and baseball pitchers, who rely on things outside their control, are often superstitious, NPR reports.

But the opposite is also true. Out-of-control subjects were asked to discuss something they could control—like a personal value. Right away, they no longer saw images in fuzzy pictures. “Feelings of control are so important to people that a lack of control is inherently threatening," one scientist told Newsweek.