Fortunate Cookies


428896286_d2132dfd7d_m1428896286_d2132dfd7d_m1 My kids and I love Chinese Buffets, but for different reasons.  I just like to eat . The crab legs offer a biology lesson for one son and food for the other.  Neither one willingly eats much beyond jello, pudding and garlic bread yet, but they both love the fortune cookies.  I’m wondering if I’ll regret opening that door to superstition.

I’ve already told them that the fortunes are not a Chinese custom. Chinese presented with a fortune cookie were surprised when there was a piece of paper inside.  Even so, the boys recently announced that the fortune was right.  Middle son was following the instructions provided by his fortune from an August trip to the buffet.

Travel south to find success.

After repeated failed attempts at a Mars Mission online game, he moved down screen, "south," and nailed the level.  This was a great victory for him and it cemented the power of the fortune in his mind.

It’s fairly cool that he remembered the fortune a month later (he sometimes forgets to grab socks from his room, after being sent to his room to get some socks). However, should I be concerned about his future decision-making habits, based on random phrases inserted in vanilla cookies?

Fortunately for me, greater minds have addressed this issue; this month’s Science journal features a paper examining lack of control as a determining factor in ‘illusory pattern perception’. On my level that tells me that superstitions can be developed when there is a perceived lack of control.  In a quest for control, the mind seeks a pattern, even manufacturing one when one is not readily available.

In my son’s case, the game was kicking his butt.  He remembered a phrase and applied it to the game. Arguably, the increased confidence he found contributed to his success.  The downside in the long term occurs if he looks only to fortune cookies when he feels out of control. I’m not too worried, it’s only a flash game.

Do you have any family superstitions?  Any indications that they arose from a perceived lack of control?  Or are they just fun?

HT TierneyLab

Photo Sutanto on Flickr

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