The Psychology of Superstition

By Gustav Jahoda | Go to book overview
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Superstition as a Social Phenomenon the diocese of Constance, twenty-eight German miles from the town of Ratisbon in the direction of Salzburg, a violent hailstorm destroyed all the fruit, crops and vineyards in a belt one mile wide, so that the vines hardly bore fruit for three years. This was brought to the notice of the Inquisition, since the people clamoured for an enquiry to be held; many beside all the townsmen being of the opinion that it was caused by witchcraft...

And it is known that these women have entered into an open pact with the devil, because they revealed secret matters to those who come to them to be cured. For they suddenly disclose to such a person the cause of his calamity, telling him that he has been bewitched either in his own person or in his possessions because of some quarrel he has had with a neighbour or with some other woman or man...

Malleus Maleficarum ( fifteenth-century Europe)

While the preceding chapters have in the main concentrated on the psychological aspects of superstition, social factors have unavoidably and repeatedly obtruded themselves. Thus it has been shown that Skinner's account tacitly assumes some of the things it tries to explain, by underplaying the role of social transmission. The origins of most superstitions are shrouded in the mists of time, and admit nothing more than unverifiable speculation. On the other hand, new collective superstitions do occasionally arise and thus provide an opportunity for studying their genesis.

One of these was the so-called Vailala madness, which emerged


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The Psychology of Superstition


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