Reversing One's Fortune by Pushing Away Bad Luck
Title: Reversing One's Fortune by Pushing Away Bad Luck
Lecturer: Yan ZHANG, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Business School of National University of Singapore
Hosted by: Qingsheng WU, Associate Professor of Marketing, Antai College of Economics & Management, Shanghai Jiao Tong University
Time: 13:30PM~15:00PM, June. 19th (Wed), 2013
Location: Room 102 in Antai Building
Across cultures, people try to undo bad luck with superstitious rituals such as knocking on wood, spitting, or throwing salt. We suggest that these rituals reduce the perceived likelihood of anticipated negative outcomes because they involve avoidant actions that exert force away from one's representation of self, which simulates the experience of pushing away bad luck. Five experiments test this hypothesis by having participants tempt fate and then engage in avoidant actions that are either superstitious (Experiment 1, knocking on wood) or non-superstitious (Experiments 2-5, throwing a ball). We find that participants who knock down (away from themselves) or throw a ball think that a jinxed negative outcome is less likely than participants who knock up (toward themselves) or hold a ball. Experiments 3 and 4 provide evidence that after tempting fate, engaging in an avoidant action leads to less clear mental representations for the jinxed event, which in turn, leads to lower perceived likelihoods. Finally, we demonstrate that engaging in an avoidant action- rather than creating physical distance- is critical for reversing the perceived effect of the jinx. Although superstitions are often culturally defined, the underlying psychological processes that give rise to them may be shared across cultures.
Yan Zhang is an Assistant Professor of Marketing at the NUS business school. She joined the faculty of the marketing department in 2009 after receiving her PhD from the University of Chicago.
Yan Zhang’s research interest centers around consumer judgment and behavior, with a focus on the topics involving social exchange and social connection. She studies how the cognitive biases influence one’s behavior and judgment in social exchanges and interactions. She also applies this knowledge to assist consumers make better decisions and to help business design better marketing programs. Her work has been published in several leading academic journals, including Journal of Consumer Research, Journal of Marketing Research, Journal of Personality and Social Science, Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, and Psychological Science, and has been covered in media outlets such CNN, Psychology Today, the Wall Street Journal, the Strait Times, and a number of blogs on consumer psychology and behavior.