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Online Membership event

Ancient origins of modern superstition

In this online 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 online 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.

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About the speaker

About the speaker

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.