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Cultivate Your Garden

How a lack of control leads to superstition
and what can be done about it
magazine cover

Imagine a time in your life when you felt out of control—anything from getting lost to losing a job. Now look at the Figure 1 on this page. What do you see? Such a scenario was presented to subjects in a 2008 experiment by Jennifer Whitson of the University of Texas at Austin and her colleague Adam Galinsky of Northwestern University . Their study, entitled “Lacking Control Increases Illusory Pattern Perception,” was published in Science.

Defining “illusory pattern perception” (what I call “patternicity”) as “the identification of a coherent and meaningful interrelationship among a set of random or unrelated stimuli … (such as the tendency to perceive false correlations, see imaginary figures, form superstitious rituals, and embrace conspiracy beliefs, among others),” the researchers’ thesis was that “when individuals are unable to gain a sense of control objectively, they will try to gain it perceptually.” As Whitson explained the psychology to me, “Feelings of control are essential for our well-being—we think clearer and make better decisions when we feel we are in control. Lacking control is highly aversive, so we instinctively seek out patterns to regain control—even if those patterns are illusory.” (continue reading…)

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Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed

Anticipating success with their feature film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Producers Mark Mathis, Logan Craft and Walt Ruloff have already leaked a teaser trailer for the film’s sequel. Their “teach the controversy” slogan seemed to work well in getting the general public to believe that Intelligent Design is a viable alternative scientific theory to Evolution, so the team has moved on to promoting other theories that they feel are being suppressed by the scientific community. Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed tells of how Sex Theory has thrived unchallenged in the ivory towers of academia, as the explanation for how new babies are created. (continue reading…)

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