Ritualization increases the perceived efficacy of instrumental actions
|Year of publication
|Article in Periodical
|Magazine / Source
|MU Faculty or unit
|Basketball; Sports; Ritual; Ritualization; Superstition; Causal reasoning
|Across all cultures, people frequently engage in ritualized (non-instrumental) behaviors. How do those causally opaque actions affect perceptions of causal efficacy? Using real-life stimuli extracted from NCAA basketball games, we asked fans, players of the game, and subjects naive to the game to predict the outcome of free throw attempts. We found that the performance of personal pre-shot rituals increased the perception of shot efficacy irrespective of subjects' level of knowledge of and involvement in the game. Those effects became stronger when the score was less favorable for the shooter's team. Our findings suggest that even in non-religious contexts, people make intuitive judgements about ritual efficacy, and that those judgements are sensitive to ecological factors. The implications of those biases extend beyond sports, to various domains of public action, such as religion, courtrooms, college life, and political events.