An interesting piece of research, “Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance,” conducted by a group of German social psychologists from the University of Cologne in 2010 on the consequences and potential benefits of superstitions, proposed that superstitions are a cause of producing better performances in subsequent tasks, but many people are doubtful about the benefits and harms of superstitions.
Practiced in various parts of the world, superstitions have a key role in many people’s lives, including in those of world-famous celebrities, although a great deal of people do not give them any credence. For instance, Megan Fox, who is afraid of flying, listens to Britney Spears when she is on a plane as she believes she will not die while listening to Spears’ album. US President Barack Obama carries with him an idol of Hanuman, a Hindu deity, to protect against evil.
Speaking to Sunday’s Zaman, a psychologist who asked to remain anonymous noted that people who believe in the power of superstitions usually engage in superstitious behavior when they are trying to find solutions to their problems in times of anxiety and stress, or to attribute meaning to behavior that others may find strange.
Many people who believe in superstitious thoughts and actions also stated that they think of superstitions as solutions invented by elders living in previous times who did not have scientific means of settling their problems. Müge Güldüren, a member of a large family, said she regards superstitions as practices passed from generation to generation and continues to believe in them although not to a great extent.
“My relatives wash the face of a child with the water of a bathroom sink when they consider that an evil eye is affecting the child. We also request a bride who is going to enter her home for the first time following a wedding ceremony to dip her hand into a bowl of honey offered to her and then rub her hand on the door of the home, thinking that this will make the couple happy throughout their lives,” continued Güldüren.
Several other people confess that they are superstitious as their elders encouraged them to hold these beliefs. Emre İmge, a university student in İstanbul, said that his mother was in the habit of doing unusual things such as putting garlic in his pocket on special occasions and weddings so as to ward off evil eyes. “I personally do not give any credit to superstitions. I even try to do things which bring bad luck according to most people in an attempt to prove that superstitions are illogical. For example, I generally buy my football kits with the number 13, which is considered by Christians and many Turks as a number which brings bad luck, but nothing bad happens to me when I wear the kit,” stated İmge.
A great number of superstitions, however, have their origins in ancient beliefs and religions. Tapping on wood to prevent bad luck is a superstition coming from Pagans who thought that living substances bore spiritual properties which created ways to harm people’s hopes. When somebody knocked on wood, the spirits would escape and nothing bad would happen.
That breaking a mirror brings seven years of bad luck is another superstitious belief known to many. The belief, which originated from Roman times, is a result of the thought that a mirror has the potential to take control of a soul. The soul of the user would be corrupted when their image became distorted, so if a mirror was broken, part of the soul of the user would be seized, according to the superstition.
Many people are not generally aware of the origins of superstitions. Halide Aslanlı, a housewife, noted that she believes in superstitions although she does not know who invented them. “After seeing a black cat one should pull his or her hair, whispering is an act that causes devils to gather around you, according to my beliefs, which I think must have some origins in religion even though I don’t know what they are,” added Aslanlı.
Other people, however, completely deny the power of superstitions, saying that they are not the creations of sane minds. Filiz Çanak, a retiree, said people should only solve their health and psychological problems by consulting doctors or psychologists. “One should also pray to God while going through difficult times instead of resorting to superstitious beliefs and behaviors,” Çanak added.