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J Gen Psychol. 2003 Oct;130(4):431-45.

What does a "superstitious" person believe? Impressions of participants.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA 18104, USA.


The questions in surveys in which superstitious belief is examined are based on the researcher or researchers' definitions of superstition and not on participants' definitions. In the present study, 170 undergraduates filled out 2 surveys. In the 1st survey, they were asked to rate 28 possible beliefs of a fictitious person described as "superstitious." In the 2nd survey, they were asked to rate their own level of belief for the same items. An analysis revealed several different factors describing different types of beliefs held by the fictitious person. Ratings for the fictitious person were greatest for socially transmitted beliefs (e.g., black cats, rabbits' feet) or idiosyncratic rituals related to luck and chance, followed by belief in the paranormal (e.g., ghosts), spiritualism (e.g., reincarnation), or psi (e.g., telepathy). Religious beliefs were rated as not being descriptive of the fictitious superstitious person. However, an analysis of the participants' own beliefs revealed that those with higher levels of religious belief also tended to be superstitious and believed in the paranormal.

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