Magical thinking is defined as believing one event happens as a result of another without any plausible link of causation.
At NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, stands a display case with a container of Planters Peanuts. The peanuts first appeared as a snack in 1964 as Ranger 7 spacecraft was being prepared for launch. After six failed attempts, Dick Wallace, a Mission Trajectory Engineer reminisces: “I thought passing out peanuts might take the edge off the anxiety in the mission operations room,” The day went well, and the peanuts became a fixture until the next generation forgot the tradition. In 1997, the Cassini mission to Saturn had to be rescheduled due to poor wind conditions. Someone remembered the peanuts and realized there weren’t any in the room. When the countdown started two days later, the engineers were once again snacking on peanuts.
NASA engineers are highly trained scientists and would refute any possibility that launch success relates to peanuts, but that hasn’t stopped them from bringing peanuts to countdowns and displaying them on site.
Superstition is closely related to magical thinking and the belief that certain actions can influence objects or events even when there is no empirical connection.
Athletes have long practiced rituals they believe bring them luck: Basketball player Ray Allen’s routine, baseball player Jason Giambi’s golden thong and Moises Alou and Jorge Posada’s practice of urinating on their hands.
According to research, we should pay more attention to superstitions and start rubbing our rabbit’s foot. Lucky hats, favorite socks and rubbing a gnome’s belly for luck may indeed influence some people. Superstitions may have an impact on people’s behaviors. They can help deal with uncertainty.
Even Jim Collins and Morten Hansen (Great by Choice) mention luck. They found that successful leaders generate a greater “return on luck” by being disciplined at exploiting opportunities and surviving bad luck to make themselves stronger.
Perhaps the secret to successful magical thinking is to show up and always be on the outlook for opportunities!
The road is easier together,