"researchers are finding evidence that superstitions may not be pointless at all. By adopting a belief that you can -- or cannot -- do something to affect a desired outcome, you're among the cadre of beings that learn. "
"Superstition is an evolutionary surprise -- it makes no sense for organisms to believe a specific action influences the future when it can't. Yet superstitious behaviour can be recognised in many animals, not just humans, and it often persists in the face of evidence against it. Superstitions are not free -- rituals and avoidance cost an animal in terms of energy or lost opportunities. The question becomes how can natural selection create, or simply allow for, such inappropriate behaviour?"
""From an evolutionary perspective, superstitions seem maladaptive," said Kevin Abbott, biologist at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario and co-author with Thomas Sherratt of a recent study published in Animal Behaviour.
The study suggests multiple reasons for such anomalies to exist: perhaps superstition is adaptive as a placebo, or for social bonding. Or maybe it really is maladaptive now, but is "the outcome of traits that were adaptive in ancestral environment; sort of like cognitive wisdom teeth," said Abbott."
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