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Kissing the mezuzah and cognitive performance: Is there an observable benefit?

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  • Siniver, Erez
  • Yaniv, Gideon

Abstract

A mezuzah is a small case affixed to the doorframe of each room in Jewish homes and workplaces which contains a tiny scroll of parchment inscribed with a prayer. It is customary for religious Jews to touch the mezuzah every time they pass through a door and kiss the fingers that touched it. However, kissing the mezuzah has also become customary for many secular Jews who think of the mezuzah as a good luck charm. In view of a recent revelation that kissing the mezuzah entails a health hazard, the present paper inquires whether it also has some observable benefit. In an experiment conducted among non-religious mezuzah-kissing economics and business students confronted with a logic-problem exam, some were allowed to kiss the mezuzah before taking the exam, whereas the others were asked not to do so or could not do so because it had been removed from the room doorframe. The experiment revealed that participants who did not kiss the mezuzah performed worse than those who kissed it, and that the stronger is one's belief in the mezuzah's luck-enhancing properties, the better he performs when he kisses it but the worse he performs when he does not.

Suggested Citation

  • Siniver, Erez & Yaniv, Gideon, 2015. "Kissing the mezuzah and cognitive performance: Is there an observable benefit?," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 40-46.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:117:y:2015:i:c:p:40-46
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jebo.2015.05.015
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Ng, Travis & Chong, Terence & Du, Xin, 2010. "The value of superstitions," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 293-309, June.
    2. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 2006. "Superstition and Rational Learning," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 630-651, June.
    3. Hiroyuki Yamada, 2013. "Superstition effects versus cohort effects: is it bad luck to be born in the year of the fire horse in Japan?," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 11(2), pages 259-283, June.
    4. Ka-Fu Wong & Linda Yung, 2005. "Do Dragons Have Better Fate?," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 43(3), pages 689-697, July.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mezuzah kissing; Good luck charm; Superstition;

    JEL classification:

    • C93 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Field Experiments
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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