Friday, February 24, 2012

People are superstitious because they are lazy? How does this affect your marketing strategy?

Now you might think I´m a freak, haha, but last night I went to a spiritual meeting to participate in a “sacred ceremony to cut energetic cords from past relationships”. The meeting was held by a lady I met a few years back at a conference, so I thought I´d test it out. Why not? :)

We were asked to put a sparkling thing on the table during the session, and this item would then be “blessed” by the angels entering the room during meditation. I have a glittery cover for my iphone so I put it there to be infused with good luck and energy from the sky (or something...). Whatever comes into my phone is now a “sign”.

You might laugh, but these things are used by many to make decisions in life; a lot of people are superstitious; a huge bunch of us don´t just rely on facts and data but on star signs and mystery.

I believe this is closely connected to the psychologist Daniel Kahneman´s theories on intuition, and that our mind by default is trying to take shortcuts to avoid spending energy finding out facts. When the brain knows too much it´s harder to make a confident decision; the less you need to consider, the more sure you can feel, which is comforting – so you prefer to be lazy and uninformed, and to base your opinions on random feelings instead of facts. Superstition is the easy way out. No information gathering needed – just throw a coin or consult your horoscope!

According to a study in New Woman from 2006, 6 out of 10 Australians can’t start their day without checking their star sign. 6 out of 10 Australians know the star sign of their pet, and 35 % of NSW readers check their horoscope before having sex with a new partner. Time magazine wrote around the same time that 1 in 5 British adults regularly throw coins into wishing wells and fountains.

Richard Wiseman, the British psychologist and author of Quirkology and Luck Factor, has studied superstition, and the results of his research is not uplifting for me and my blessed phone... These are his words:

“In 1996, the Gallup Organization asked 1,000 Americans whether they were superstitious. 53 percent of people said that they were at least a little superstitious, and 25 percent admitted to being somewhat or very superstitious. Another survey revealed that 72 percent of the public said that they possessed at least one good luck charm.

Superstitious beliefs and behaviors have been passed down from generation to generation. Our parents told us about them and we will pass them on to our children. But why do they persist? I believe that the answer lies in the power of luck. Throughout history, people have recognized that good and bad luck can transform lives. A few seconds of ill fortune can lay waste years of striving, and moments of good luck can save an enormous amount of hard work. Superstition represents people’s attempts to control and enhance this most elusive of factors. And the enduring nature of these superstitions beliefs and behaviors reflects the extent of people’s desire to find ways of increasing their good luck. In short, superstitions were created, and have survived, because they promise that most elusive of holy grails – a way of enhancing good fortune. There is just one problem. Superstition doesn’t work. 

Several researchers have also tested the validity of these age-old beliefs and found them wanting. My favorite experiment into the topic was a rather strange study conducted by high school student (and member of the New York Skeptics) Mark Levin. In some countries, a black cat crossing your path is seen as lucky, in other countries it is seen as unlucky. Levin wanted to discover whether people’s luck really changed when a black cat crossed their path. To find out, he asked two people to try their luck at a simple coin tossing game. Next, a black cat was encouraged to walk across their path, and the participants then played the coin tossing game a second time. As a “control” condition, 

Levin also repeated the experiment using a white, rather than a black, cat. After much coin tossing and cat crossing, Levin concluded that neither the black or white cat had any effect on participants’ luck. Also, skeptics have regularly staged events in which they have broken well-known superstitions, such as walking under ladders and smashing mirrors – all have survived the ordeals intact. 

A few years ago I decided to put the power of lucky charms to the test by empirically evaluating the actual effect that they have on people’s luck, lives, and happiness. I asked a group of volunteers to complete various standardized questionnaires measuring their levels of life satisfaction, happiness, and luck. Next, they were asked to carry a lucky charm with them and to monitor the effect that it had on their lives. The charms had been purchased from a New Age center and promised to enhance good fortune, wealth, and happiness. After a few weeks everyone in the group was asked to indicate the effect that the charms had had on their lives. Overall, there was absolutely no effect in terms of how satisfied they were with their lives, how happy they were, or how lucky they felt. Interestingly, a few participants thought that they had been especially unlucky, and seemed somewhat relieved that they could now return the charms.” 

What do you think? How can this change the way you work today? Is your brain lazy too? Can you adapt to your target audience´s superstitious minds?

I believe in healthy intuition, based on research. When you have stored a lot of data in your brain, your feelings (or psychic gift) can help you analyse this and draw conclusions beyond logic. If there are only a few random bits and pieces in your information bank, the conclusions will be incorrect, but if you have done your homework, a bit of mystery can help you trust your instincts.

I will curiously observe my phone today. What kind of "signs" will come...? Move to Sweden? London? Stay in Sydney? Write another book? Leave it all and get a job in a café? Dear phone, suprise me! lol

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