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Costly Superstitious Beliefs: Experimental Evidence


  • Ya’akov M. Bayer, Bradley J. Ruffle, Ze’ev Shtudiner, Ro’i Zultan

    () (Wilfrid Laurier University)


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 suspectible 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 ethnic origin and degree of religiosity.

Suggested Citation

  • Ya’akov M. Bayer, Bradley J. Ruffle, Ze’ev Shtudiner, Ro’i Zultan, 2018. "Costly Superstitious Beliefs: Experimental Evidence," LCERPA Working Papers 0114, Laurier Centre for Economic Research and Policy Analysis, revised 01 Mar 2018.
  • Handle: RePEc:wlu:lcerpa:0114
    Note: LCERPA Working Paper No. 2018-8, March 2018.

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.

    More about this item


    experimental economics; individual choice; pregnancy; popular beliefs; superstition; repugnance;

    JEL classification:

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

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