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Costly superstitious beliefs: Experimental evidence

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  • Bayer, Ya'akov M.
  • Ruffle, Bradley J.
  • Shtudiner, Zeev
  • Zultan, Ro'i

Abstract

Expectant parents experience a variety of emotions, including joy, anticipation as well as anxiety and fear related to the health of the fetus, the delivery and the newborn. These sources of uncertainty and stress render expectant mothers susceptible to the influence of popular beliefs. We design an experiment to evaluate the widespread Israeli belief that a baby’s room should remain unfurnished until after the baby is born. We test the impact of this belief on the economic decisions of pregnant Jewish women in Israel. Our findings show that many pregnant women, especially in the second half of pregnancy, prefer to avoid challenging popular beliefs – even at a financial cost. The negative affective consequences of “tempting fate” lead to a preference for a small monetary amount over new furniture for the newborn. The strength of popular beliefs and its influence on individual choice vary in accordance with ethnicity and degree of religiosity.

Suggested Citation

  • Bayer, Ya'akov M. & Ruffle, Bradley J. & Shtudiner, Zeev & Zultan, Ro'i, 2018. "Costly superstitious beliefs: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 69(C), pages 30-43.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:joepsy:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:30-43
    DOI: 10.1016/j.joep.2018.10.002
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    2. Invernizzi, Giovanna & Miller, Joshua Benjamin & Coen, Tommaso & Dufwenberg, Martin & Oliveira, Luiz Edgard R., 2019. "Tra i Leoni: Revealing the Preferences Behind a Superstition," OSF Preprints c5hxs, Center for Open Science.
    3. Israel, Avi & Lahav, Eyal & Ziv, Naomi, 2019. "Stop the music? The effect of music on risky financial decisions: An experimental study," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Finance, Elsevier, vol. 24(C).
    4. Zeev Shtudiner, 2020. "Holiday gift-giving - deadweight loss or welfare gain?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 40(3), pages 1977-1984.
    5. Invernizzi, Giovanna M. & Miller, Joshua B. & Coen, Tommaso & Dufwenberg, Martin & Oliveira, Luiz Edgard R., 2021. "Tra i Leoni: Revealing the preferences behind a superstition," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 82(C).

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Experimental economics; Individual choice; Pregnancy; Popular beliefs; Superstition; Repugnance;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C90 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - General
    • Z10 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - General

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