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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2008 Aug;95(2):293-307. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.95.2.293.

Why people are reluctant to tempt fate.

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Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60637, USA.


The present research explored the belief that it is bad luck to "tempt fate." Studies 1 and 2 demonstrated that people do indeed have the intuition that actions that tempt fate increase the likelihood of negative outcomes. Studies 3-6 examined our claim that the intuition is due, in large part, to the combination of the automatic tendencies to attend to negative prospects and to use accessibility as a cue when judging likelihood. Study 3 demonstrated that negative outcomes are more accessible following actions that tempt fate than following actions that do not tempt fate. Studies 4 and 5 demonstrated that the heightened accessibility of negative outcomes mediates the elevated perceptions of likelihood. Finally, Study 6 examined the automatic nature of the underlying processes. The types of actions that are thought to tempt fate as well as the role of society and culture in shaping this magical belief are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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