Superstition and the inversion of causality

From an interesting conversation about superstitions with my sister…

There are a number of superstitions that have little or nothing to do with religion. A few examples. There are probably a lot more like these.

  • Not serving poli (bread) before bhaaji (curry). Why? Poor people do that because they can’t afford vegetables.
  • Not taking a bath in the evening. Why? One does that after attending a funeral.
  • Not using a particular kind of flower for decoration. Why? That kind of flower is used during funeral.
  • Not saying/doing a namaskar (a kind of salute with folded hands) to a person who is resting. Why? One does that after a person is dead to pay one’s last respects.
  • Saying “yete” (“I will be back”) instead of “jaate” (“I will now leave”) at the end of a meeting, lest it be the last meeting.

Each one of these has a common thread to it – the belief that acting as if something has happened will make that thing happen. The belief that an effect will produce the cause. This is an incredible inversion of causality. But, now that I think about it, I think it is pervasive in our culture. Absolutely mind-boggling.

Advertisements

One Response

  1. This is fairly common and results from assuming the converse of an implication. Even children, when told “A implies B”, routinely assume “B implies A”. This has evolutionary advantage, since it is true when intepreted probabilistically.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: