62 Inhibition and Superstition

Based on Research by Marjaana Lindeman, Tapani Riekki, & Bruce M. Hood.  Psychology Science Minute written by Kyle Piecora, M.S..

Do you ever wonder why some people maintain superstitions and supernatural beliefs like telepathy, ghosts, and Gods and others don’t?

Researchers from the Universities of Helsinki and Bristol think they may have found an important link in answering why people hold to these beliefs. First, participants completed a self-report measure about their level of supernatural beliefs. After selecting only the strongest believers and the strongest skeptics, the group members took two psychological assessments designed to measure inhibition, or the control and conscious restraint of reasoning behaviors.  The results indicated that the believers demonstrated more errors on routine but easy tasks requiring careful reasoning and attention to detail, identifying them as less inhibited. Therefore weak inhibition predicted having more paranormal, magical, and superstitious beliefs.

This finding is in line with the idea that inhibition is developed as the brain matures which is why children generally have more naïve, superstitious beliefs than adults.  The notion is also supported by the rise in superstition in those with dementia, where social inhibition declines.  Next time you encounter a situation or set of ideas that you cannot explain, resist jumping to conclusions!  Instead, use your intellect, reasoning, and the scientific method to search for the answer.


Lindeman, M., Riekki, T., & Hood, B. M.  (2011).  Is weaker inhibition associated with supernatural beliefs?  Journal of Cognition and Culture, 11, 231-239.

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