Ritualization increases the perceived efficacy of instrumental actions



Year of publication 2021
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Cognition
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Arts

Web https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0010027721002420?dgcid=coauthor#!
Doi http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104823
Keywords Basketball; Sports; Ritual; Ritualization; Superstition; Causal reasoning
Description 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.
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