Thursday, November 01, 2007

Talisman-based superstitions in gamers

In one experiment, B.F. Skinner fed pigeons pellets every 15 seconds no matter what they did. "After several days each pigeon had developed its own independent superstition about what produced this manna from heaven. One thought circling clockwise was necessary, another that it had to attack a spot on the cage to get the pellets".

Gamblers are known to do a similar thing. If they get a win, they associate it with some property about the situation, and think that repeating it will help bring on future wins.

In all these cases, pigeons/people form beliefs that certain things are talismans (these things don't have to be objects, they can be actions).

Here's a post reporting on talisman-based superstitions in players of massively multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft. That post is in turn commenting on this work.

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