Researchers from Kansas State University developed three reasons for superstitious behavior: to gain control over uncertainty, to decrease feelings of helplessness, and because it is easier to rely on superstition instead of coping strategies. One of the major discoveries was that people who believe that chance and fate control their lives are more likely to be superstitious.
In the first study done, the researchers conducted questionnaires with 200 undergraduates, asking about how pessimistic they were, whether they believed in chance or fate, if they liked to be in control and other questions. In order for these discoveries to be credible, other researchers should be able to replicate these findings. For the results to be more reliable, the questionnaires could have been sent out to people of different ages, and more than 200 should be used. These suggestions could help to eliminate bias. In the second study, it was found that when faced with death, people are likely to abandon superstition altogether. Thinking about death would make people feel helpless, and would actually reduce their superstitious belief. link to article
In contrast, according to the Lilienfeld text, superstitions are due mostly to operant conditioning. Shown by a study done by Skinner involving pigeons and food, superstitious behavior is caused by actions linked to reinforcement by sheer coincidence. The pigeons received reinforcement no matter what they did, but the behavior that the pigeons performed right before being reinforced was strengthened, so they kept on doing it-thinking that that behavior would increase the chances of receiving the food. This reasoning of operant conditioning could be seen as one of the six principles of critical thinking- Occam's Razor, because it is a more simple explanation.