A belief or attitude that does not correspond to what is generally believed to be true or rational is Superstition. The study of psychology generally does not include any emphasis on these seemingly irrational beliefs that motivate behavior. Nevertheless, superstitious actions are common in our society. Avoiding walking under ladders in order to ward off disaster, crossing fingers for good luck, and knocking on wood surfaces to ensure continued prosperity or avoid tragedy are examples of commonplace superstitions that have permeated society since ancient times.
Superstition has had different meanings in different cultures and epochs. One thing binding these meanings together is that they are usually negative and superstition is a concept defined principally by its self-declared opponents. A second is that superstition is defined as the opposite of something praiseworthy and usually true religion or true science.
Throughout the centuries, the early superstitions that brought solace to the fear-stricken primitive mind have spawned thousands upon thousands of magic practices and beliefs, all with the goal of warding off danger, of placating angry deities, or of summoning good fortune. Since humankind's earliest awareness of the final destiny of the grave that awaits all individuals, people have feared death and they have imagined omens, or warnings, in the simplest things, such as the appearance of a black cat, the spilling of salt, the number 13. In a broad sense, superstitions are a kind of white magic in that people will believe that their observing or practicing the personal ritual will bring them good luck, prevent illness, and ward off evil. And many superstitions offer procedures for overcoming the negative acts threatened by these omens, such as casting a pinch of salt over the shoulder or whispering a blessing after a sneeze.
Superstition in the modern era is less likely to be contrasted with true religion and more likely to be viewed as the...
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