Costly Superstitious Beliefs: Experimental Evidence

28 Pages Posted: 28 Mar 2018 Last revised: 9 Jan 2019

See all articles by Ya'akov M. Bayer

Ya'akov M. Bayer

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev; Beer Sheva Mental Health Center

Bradley J. Ruffle

McMaster University

Ze'ev Shtudiner

Ariel University - Department of Economics

Ro'i Zultan

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev

Date Written: March 23, 2018

Abstract

Expectant parents experience a variety of emotions, including joy, anticipation as well as anxiety and fear related to the health of the fetus, the delivery and the newborn. These sources of uncertainty and stress render expectant mothers susceptible to the influence of popular beliefs. We design an experiment to evaluate the widespread Israeli belief that a baby’s room should remain unfurnished until after the baby is born. We test the impact of this belief on the economic decisions of pregnant Jewish women in Israel. Our findings show that many pregnant women, especially in the second half of pregnancy, prefer to avoid challenging popular beliefs – even at a financial cost. The negative affective consequences of “tempting fate” lead to a preference for a small monetary amount over new furniture for the newborn. The strength of popular beliefs and its influence on individual choice vary in accordance with ethnic origin and degree of religiosity.

Keywords: experimental economics, individual choice, pregnancy, popular beliefs, superstition, repugnance

JEL Classification: C90, Z10

Suggested Citation

Bayer, Ya'akov and Ruffle, Bradley J. and Shtudiner, Ze'ev and Zultan, Ro'i, Costly Superstitious Beliefs: Experimental Evidence (March 23, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3148047 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3148047

Ya'akov Bayer

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105
Israel

Beer Sheva Mental Health Center ( email )

Israel

Bradley J. Ruffle (Contact Author)

McMaster University ( email )

1280 Main Street West
Hamilton, Ontario L8S 4M4
Canada

HOME PAGE: http://https://socialsciences.mcmaster.ca/people/ruffle-bradley

Ze'ev Shtudiner

Ariel University - Department of Economics ( email )

Ariel, 40300
Israel

Ro'i Zultan

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev ( email )

1 Ben-Gurion Blvd
Beer-Sheba 84105, 84105
Israel

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