Silver magical disk incised with a magical square of Jupiter

Event information

10 Aug 2020


Please note this is a digital event and will require you to use the video conferencing system Zoom.

These events are free however donations are greatly appreciated.

In this digital discussion, author, scholar and psychologist Stuart Vyse examines the ancient origins of superstitions still believed today.

Do you touch wood for luck or avoid hotel rooms on floor thirteen? Would you cross the path of a black cat or step under a ladder? Is breaking a mirror just an expensive waste of glass or something rather more sinister? Despite the dominance of science in today's world, superstitious beliefs - both traditional and new - remain surprisingly popular. The concept of superstition has existed for millennia, and some of today's most popular superstitions had their beginnings in ancient Babylonia. What explains their enduring appeal?

In this special digital event hear from author, independent scholar and psychologist Stuart Vyse as he explores the ancient origins of modern superstition. Stuart Vyse takes an exciting look at the varieties of popular superstitious beliefs today and the psychological reasons behind their continued existence, as well as the likely future course of superstition in our increasingly connected world.

Stuart Vyse is a behavioural scientist, teacher, and writer. He holds PhD and MA degrees in psychology and BA and MA degrees in English Literature. He taught at Providence College, the University of Rhode Island, and Connecticut College, where he was Joanne Toor Cummings '50 Professor. Vyse has written three books: Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition (OUP, 1997), which won the 1999 William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association, Going Broke: Why Americans (Still) Can't Hold on to Their Money (OUP, 2018) and Superstition: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2020). He has written dozens of personal essays, most of which have appeared as op-eds in various newspapers and online publications, and he is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

To access this event 

Join the discussion from 18.15 on 10 August 2020. Once you've accessed this event, one of the Membership team will be ready to greet you and talk through how to ask questions and take part. After the initial presentation and discussion, we will be inviting questions from the audience.

Before or during the meeting, if you have any queries relating to the event or need any help, please email us at

Places are limited but the event will be recorded and circulated shortly afterwards in the weekly Members' email.

Donate to the British Museum Friends

Donate to the British Museum Friends

Gifts support the care, preservation and display of the collection, making the inspirational work of our curators, conservators, scientists and educators possible.

Every donation makes a real difference. If you're able, please support the Museum today. Thank you.