Black Cats and Broken Mirrors: Superstition by Personality Type
“When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer. Superstition ain’t the way.” – Stevie Wonder, “Superstition”
Whether the belief is widespread, such as an aversion to black cats, or more individual, such as the need to wear a particular shirt to ensure the victory of one’s favorite sports team, it may be difficult to prove a superstition’s effect on the course of events, but it’s easy to see how it can alter our own behavior. Every time that we walk around a ladder rather than under it, or refuse to do business on Friday the 13th, or modify our actions in any way rather than tempt fate, we are implicitly acknowledging the power that superstition has over us.
Of course, how superstitious we are varies from person to person – and perhaps, from personality to personality.
To test this thesis, we asked our readers whether they agreed or disagreed with the statement, “You are a superstitious person.” Only 35% agreed overall, but significant gaps can be observed between Turbulent and Assertive types (45% vs. 26% agreeing, respectively) and between Intuitive and Observant types (43% vs. 29% agreeing).
Which personality types are the most superstitious? We explore the question below.
Diplomats (46% agreeing)
Almost half of all Diplomats surveyed characterized themselves as superstitious – a rather neutral result, but the highest of the four Roles. As Intuitive personalities, Diplomats are capable of imagining all kinds of things and are open to all sorts of possibilities – including luck, magic, and the legitimacy of superstitions. The empathic nature of Diplomats’ Feeling trait may also contribute to their attraction to superstition, as it gives them the sensation of being in tune with their surroundings and other people in a way that they can’t necessarily explain.
Analysts share with Diplomats an Intuitive Energy, but their notably lower response demonstrates just how much their Thinking personality trait dampens the allure of superstition.
Superstition is often based on false ideas about causation (e.g., your team won the big game while you were wearing a certain pair of socks, so now you must always wear those socks for every game and never clean them, lest you wash away their luck). Generally speaking, Analysts are simply too logical to allow themselves to get swept up in such thinking – at least most of the time. As we’ll see in the Strategies section below, a certain combination of traits can sway even the most rational of personalities to the side of superstition.
Explorers and Sentinels (31% and 28%)
While Explorers and Sentinels may differ in many ways, the emphasis that these personalities place on that which is practical and of immediate relevance unites them, and discourages superstitious thinking. Their shared Observant trait compels them to look to facts and evidence to explain events (e.g., your team won the big game thanks to fewer errors, sharper skills, and an injury to the opponent’s star player).
Social Engagement and Constant Improvement (47% and 42% agreeing)
Although Extraverts, who draw their energy from external sources, were slightly more likely than Introverts to be superstitious, the Identity personality aspect was the strongest influencer in this survey, with the two Turbulent Strategies – Social Engagement and Constant Improvement – topping the results.
Aside from ideas about luck, magic, or causation, superstition is also commonly driven by fear of the unknown. For many Turbulent personalities, the need to cultivate success and mitigate disaster can lead them to leave no stone unturned when it comes to exerting control over their lives. Many may feel that, while no link can be proven between a particular superstition and a particular outcome, what’s the harm in indulging in it…and moreover, what harm might result if they do not?
Perhaps surprisingly, the personality type most likely to admit to being superstitious was an Analyst – the Turbulent Commander (ENTJ-T) (56%). These Social Engagers, although vigorously rational, are so fully committed to their goals that they’ll do whatever it takes to achieve them (even if it means wearing those smelly, unwashed socks to every game for luck). They can be very stubborn too, so once they’ve developed a conviction, they’re unlikely to alter it. Turbulence greatly enhances these tendencies, making Turbulent Commanders much more likely than one might expect to cling to certain superstitions, despite evidence of their irrationality.
People Mastery and Confident Individualism (28% and 23%)
The Assertive Strategies, People Mastery and Confident Individualism, had only small minorities who considered themselves superstitious. More assured of their own abilities and less inclined to commit energy to extraneous efforts, these personalities may see superstition as, if not necessarily pointless, then certainly not worth the trouble of pursuing.
Assertive Virtuosos (ISTP-A) (14%) were the personality type least likely to be superstitious. Virtuosos in general are experimenters and keen observers of logical, evidence-based cause and effect, and they tend to dislike routine. As Confident Individualists, Assertive Virtuosos believe in relying on themselves. Viewing reliance on other people as a weakness, they’re certainly going to have an even lower opinion of dependence on arbitrary, bizarre behaviors (like wearing dirty socks to sporting events). When it comes to superstition, very few Virtuosos buy into it.
For some more grounded individuals (Explorers, Sentinels, and Assertive personalities, for instance), there may be little incentive to pay heed to superstitious beliefs and practices. To their way of thinking, if a superstition can’t be proven, what use is it?
For dreamier or more uncertain types (Intuitive and Turbulent personalities), however, superstitions can offer a sense of security and connectedness to something larger than oneself.
Stevie Wonder may not think much of being “very superstitious” (and it’s hard to contradict a funk masterpiece like “Superstition”), but the impulse to try to control that which is seemingly beyond our power is understandable and undeniably human.
How much credence do you give to superstitions? Why? Tell us about it in the comments below.