The Narrative Fallacy: What It Is And How It Is Related To Superstition

narrative fallacy

Human beings do not like not knowing why things happen, so we tend to look for and establish explanations that we believe to be true, even if they do not have scientific support.

Likewise, this mode of causal relationship also influences superstitious thinking and luck, since in these circumstances we observe how the individual establishes a connection between two events that really does not have a logical justification.

In this article we will explore a concept related to all this, the narrative fallacy also explaining how useful it can be, what concepts are linked to it, and how this behavior is observed in animals.

What is the narrative fallacy?

Simply put, the narrative fallacy is the innate tendency that humans have to eestablish causal relationships even if they are not objectively justified It is difficult for human beings to resist not knowing where such an event comes from or why such an event has happened. It is for this reason that they are willing to propose stories that justify a fact and give meaning to the world even if there is really no logical reason that explains it. such belief.

A concept closely linked to the narrative fallacy is patronicity ; This is defined as the attempt to establish patterns, that is, identify cause and effect that are repeated, believing that an event always generates the same result.

It is important to know this tendency that we have, since, despite doing it innately, We should not value all our beliefs as true Stop and think about whether it really makes sense and prevent these fallacies from having a negative impact on you. Thinking that you know or can know everything is not even true and sometimes this thinking can make it difficult for us to continue progressing and knowing the truth.

Examples of narrative fallacy

The usefulness of the narrative fallacy

This tendency to look for causal relationships and establish patterns has helped people survive When faced with a dangerous event, putting ourselves in the worst situation helps us prevent and act to avoid negative consequences, it allows us to act in advance when we still do not know for sure what is going to happen. Although it is true that this way of proceeding was above all functional before, in older times where the dangers that human beings could encounter were greater.

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In that period, not establishing and not being guided by narrative fallacy and patronage could mean your death. Currently, this provision It is more linked to the establishment of stories that we believe and with which we can confuse reality

It has been observed that the creation of stories helps to remember the facts better, gives more emotion to the events and, therefore, makes the subject encode, store and retrieve them better. Let’s look at an example: saying that “Peter died because I can’t get over the fact that Mary left him” is not the same as simply saying that “Peter died.” The first statement will be more likely to be remembered than the second, since we present a story and we make known a cause.

This strategy does not have to be negative, since The purpose is not to distort or change reality but to provide more information, to be more specific, so that the message is better remembered. This technique is used in advertising, so that viewers remember the advertisement more easily, so when we want to sell a product we do not only show the image of it but we build a story to represent how it is used and ensure that the advertising is understood. and be remembered better.

Its relationship with superstition

It has been observed that sometimes It is easy for superstitions to arise through narrative fallacy We understand superstition as a belief that, with explanations contrary to reason and more linked to magical thinking, creates relationships without verification or scientific evidence to support it.

The purpose of such a belief is to justify an event, usually bad, with a cause that really has no relation.

For example, beliefs are popular that it is not good to walk under a ladder, to have a black cat come across you, or to have a mirror break, since these events tend to be linked to negative events. Actually the relationship is not true nor does it make sense scientifically speaking, but society generates these thoughts to find meaning and give an explanation, no matter how illogical, to a negative event. They prefer to believe this than not know the reason for the events.

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These magical beliefs can be harmless, that is, they do not affect the life of the individual, but if they are constantly repeated, represent a great waste of time or affect the functionality of the subject, they can lead to a problem that will require intervention. . The subject comes to really believe the superstitious explanations and can have a really bad time when something linked to them happens to them.

The explanation of luck

We also see how this inclination to establish causal relationships between an unimportant fact and an effect occurs in the belief in luck. There really are events for which we cannot find an explanation or they may have more than one; in these circumstances the subject with the intention of giving meaning to episodes in his life and being able to predict future events proposes cause-effect connections without having a rational explanation

For example, a student may believe that one of his pens brings him luck, since since using it he has not failed any exam. This thought is not negative if the subject continues studying and preparing for the tests, although can be dysfunctional if the individual mistakenly believes that without preparing and without studying the pen will make him or her pass

With this example we mean that as long as believing in luck does not modify or conditions our way of acting, it can be harmless for the person, but when the conviction already affects their behavior, letting themselves be carried away by it and influencing their decisions, it can be dysfunctional.

Another factor linked to luck is chance, understood as a set of unknown causes that give rise to an unpredictable result This event is studied by mathematicians with probability theory. Let’s see how luck and chance would explain the same event.

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Let’s imagine having a cube with three dice, the game consists of rolling the dice and winning if they all come up even. If we try to justify the result through chance, through probability theory, winning or not winning has the same probability regardless of how many times we roll or how we do it, the percentage of chance of succeeding is always the same in each roll and just like losing.

On the other hand, luck, in the previous example, links winning or losing to causes that are not really logical or do not influence the probability given that, as we have seen, this cannot change, the subject will believe that he has won because he is wearing a red jacket that gives him luck or because he blew on the dice before throwing the dice or he will attribute the loss to the fact that he did not count to three or not having rolled the dice with the left hand.

Superstitious behavior in animals

As happens with other behaviors that humans present similar characteristics to other animals, In the case of superstitions we also observe them in these beings not so different from us The famous psychologist Burrhus Frederic Skinner, known for his experiments and for his approach to operant conditioning, observed that pigeons also displayed superstitious behaviors.

The experiment consisted of implementing operant conditioning to the pigeons where every time they touched a button with their beak they were given food. Once the learning was done, the researcher changed the way of getting the food and let it be administered to the pigeon. pigeon according to a random method, that is, whether or not it received food was independent of what the animal did.

In this way, it was surprising to observe that if the pigeon made a gesture, for example raising a leg, and this action coincided with the administration of food, the animal was left with this event and if it later performed it again and by chance it was given food again the gesture was reinforced and linked to the food It was observed how the pigeon then continuously presented this behavior, acting as if it were the cause of receiving food, this event was called by Skinner as superstitious behavior.