Magical thinking in predictions of negative events: Evidence for tempting fate but not for a protection effect

In this paper we test two hypotheses regarding magical thinking about the perceived likelihood of future events. The first is that people believe that those who “tempt fate” by failing to take necessary precautions are more likely to suffer negative outcomes. The second is the “protection effect”, where reminding people of precautions they have taken leads them to see related risks as less likely. To this end, we describe the results from three attempted direct replications of a protection effect experiment reported in Tykocinski (2008) and two replications of a tempting fate experiment reported in Risen and Gilovich (2008) in which we add a test of the protection effect. We did not replicate the protection effect but did replicate the tempting fate effect.

Netspar, Network for Studies on Pensions, Aging and Retirement, is a thinktank and knowledge network. Netspar is dedicated to promoting a wider understanding of the economic and social implications of pensions, aging and retirement in the Netherlands and Europe.


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