Breaking Magic: Foreign Language Suppresses Superstition

Constantinos Hadjichristidis, Janet Geipel, Luca Surian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In three studies, we found that reading information in a foreign language can suppress common superstitious beliefs. Participants read scenarios in either their native or a foreign language. In each scenario, participants were asked to imagine performing an action (e.g., submitting a job application) under a superstitious circumstance (e.g., broken mirror, four-leaf clover) and to rate how they would feel. Overall, foreign language prompted less negative feelings towards bad-luck scenarios and less positive feelings towards good-luck scenarios, while it exerted no influence on non-superstitious, control scenarios. We attribute these findings to language-dependent memory. Superstitious beliefs are typically acquired and used in contexts involving the native language. As a result, the native language evokes them more forcefully than a foreign language.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
JournalQuarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
Issue number1
Early online date24 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019

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