A few posts ago I described an exercise, based on a study in Bruce Hood’s new book Supersense…..
Imagine that you only have two objects in your house:
1) A £10 watch that was given to you by your partner and therefore has sentimental value.
2) Another watch that’s worth £1000 but has no sentimental value.
Your house catches fire, and you only have time to save one watch. Say whether you are male or female, and which watch you would save….
Lots of people responded, with the results showing an even split between the two options. Of course, it seems completely irrational to save the £10 watch and thus let £990 go up in flames. So why did so many people pick this option? Well, they might argue that the £10 watch has sentimental value, but what exactly does that mean?
If you think that the £10 is somehow imbued with the essence of your partner then you are being superstitious. Of course, you might argue that it simply reminds you of the good times the two of you have had together. Fair enough, but how would you feel if I replaced it with a watch that was absolutely identical (same scratches, markings, etc)? This replacement watch would have exactly the same memory-inducing properties, but most people reject the idea, saying they want THEIR watch. Again, this is irrational.
So, here is my question. Most people don’t like to think of themselves as superstitious, and laugh at those carrying lucky charms. But are we all a bit more superstitious than we like to think? Discuss.