She’s looking at beliefs that are inconsistent with the laws of nature, or with what’s generally considered rational. As she points out, superstition in a broader sense can mean finding a link between behavior and outcome when none actually exists.
(That should bring the connectivists out of the woodwork.)
My own favorite examples of superstitious behavior (in the Skinnerean sense) are ones I’ve exhibited; probably you have, too:
- You approach an elevator. The “up” button’s already lit. You wait… and eventually press the button.
- You walk into a familiar room and flick the light switch. Nothing happens… so you flick it again.
In a sense, these behaviors are rational. You’ve built up a history with elevators and lights: when you press the button, the elevator comes. So if the button’s already been pressed, but there’s no elevator, why not press again?
Maybe it didn’t hear the first press?
I mention this not just because of the connection between Halloween and superstition. (And, actually, the traditional superstitions — witches celebrating, All Hallows — are vanishing; only recently are we leaving behind more recent superstitions about booby-trapped candy.)
I think there’s a lot of ritual or even superstitious behavior in the workplace. I’m most familiar with training and learning, though that behavior occurs in many other places as well.
We don’t always have time to look for evidence that something works. Organizations tend to be pragmatic, but they also tend to follow Newton’s laws, which is why it takes so many organizations so long to change practices and processes.
My division of GE developed a phobia about lengthy PowerPoint presentations. Sadly, one of the most widely-adopted solutions was the “four blocker” — four data-laden slides crammed onto one, like the quartering on coats of arms.
I suppose they were intended to store information for later reference, though no one ever included a magnifying glass. The intended outcome, I guess, was something like “people skilled in or well-informed about X” along with “fewer PowerPoint pages printed.”
In reality, the behavior of creating the four-blocker led mainly to the outcome of “handout never consulted again.”
What superstitions occur in your work environment?Â A colleague who shared my skepticism about Myers-Briggs said his type was GFNJ.
Guy From New Jersey.