Break a mirror and you’re stuck with bad luck. Walk under a ladder and you’re tempting fate. Sound ridiculous? Scientists believe such beliefs may be genetic, part of adaptive behaviors passed on to create an evolutionary advantage to surviving impeding danger.
Boiled down, a superstition is the belief that one event caused another event, without any evidence of the link. “All animals will display behaviors that imply a causal relationship that isn’t there,” says Kevin Foster, evolutionary biologist at Harvard University. Foster uses a pigeon as an example: The pigeon will take flight if it hears a hand clap, the same way it would react if it heard a gun shot.