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A belief or attitude that does not correspond to what is generally believed to be true or rational.

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. Sigmund Freud called such superstitions "faulty actions." Some psychologists consider them expressions of inner tensions and anxieties. Others believe intense superstitious feelings indicate some sort of mental disorder. However, there has been no reliable clinical correlation between superstitious beliefs and mental illness.

Further Reading

Lorie, Peter. Superstitions. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Rachleff, Owen S. The Secrets of Superstitions: How They Help, How They Hurt. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1976.

Additional topics

Psychology EncyclopediaPsychological Dictionary: Perception: early Greek theories to Zombie