In chapter 6 the textbook briefly explains operant conditioning. Operant conditioning basically means learning controlled by the consequences of the organism's behavior. I am mainly focusing on superstitious behavior. Superstitious behavior means actions linked to reinforcement by sheer coincidence. Athletes are more prone to superstitions than other people. This is likely because many sporting events depend heavily on chance. Although operant conditioning isn't entirely responsible for superstitions, it definitely plays an important role.
How many of the following behaviors do you perform?
- Never opening an umbrella indoors
- Not walking under a ladder
- Crossing the street whenever you see a black cat
- Carrying a lucky charm or necklace
- Going out of your way not to step on cracks in a sidewalk
- Knocking on wood
- Crossing your fingers
- Avoiding the number 13
According to the textbook, 12 percent of Americans are afraid of walking under a ladder, while 14 percent are afraid of crossing paths with a black cat. When I read through these superstitions I realized that I am more superstitious than I thought. Out of the eight superstitions above, I perform five. I didn't find it surprising that many athletes are extremely superstitious. I grew up watching and playing several sports so that gave me a lot of insight on how players acted on and off the field, rink, etc. I myself am guilty of superstitious behavior as an athlete. It is truly fascinating the tremendous array of "games" our minds play with us, telling us to do or not to do a certain thing because it could potentially control the outcome.