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Education Specialist


The aim of this study was to examine young children's understanding of superstitions—specifically bad luck superstitions. Children between the ages of 4 and 9 received a set of interview questions concerning their experiences with superstitions, their beliefs about the efficacy of superstitions, and their knowledge of the mental and physical components of superstitions. Participants also completed a belief task designed to assess the relative importance of belief and action in superstitions. The findings indicate developmental patterns in children's awareness of superstitions and beliefs in efficacy of superstitions. With age, children demonstrated a significantly greater awareness of superstitions. In contrast, children demonstrated a significant decrease in beliefs in the efficacy of superstitions by the age of seven. Regarding children's perceptions of the necessary components of superstitions, there were important similarities in the developmental pattern of children's responses. Across all age groups, the action component of a superstition (as opposed to a belief component) was found to be the primary factor in effectiveness of superstitions to "bring bad luck." These findings are discussed in relation to children's beliefs about good luck superstitions, magic, wishing, prayer, and the potential modes of cultural transmission of supernatural beliefs.


Folklore | Psychology | Sociology