People believe that negative outcomes are especially likely after a jinx. If someone says, "No one I know will ever get into a car accident," for example, it often feels that a car accident is likely to occur. But people's elevated concerns after tempting fate can be eliminated if they engage in a ritual to undo that bad luck. Noting that many of the most common rituals for undoing bad luck – knocking on wood, spitting, and throwing salt – all seem to involve movements that exert force away from a person, researchers set out to test whether the avoidant nature of the action is key for reducing the negative expectations and heightened concern generated by tempting fate. "Our findings suggest that not all actions to undo a jinx are equally effective. Instead, we find that avoidant actions that exert force away from one's representation of self are especially effective for reducing the anticipated negative consequences following a jinx" says Jane Risen, associate professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth. "Engaging in an avoidant action seems to create the sense that the bad luck is being pushed away."Basically an emotional equivalent to basic physiological actions. Eliminate the poop from the body and flush it or bury it. Or compare with the phage action of immune cells consuming bad microbes and carrying them out via the kidney. More complex rituals accomplish the same purpose without the direct throwing action. Burnt sacrifices transfer the bad luck into the sacrificed object, then simultaneously eliminate the object and purify with smoke. For serious Christians who know history, knocking on wood is a double play: it adduces the sacrifice on the cross, and it moves the hand away. Aside from subject, the study itself is notable because it was done with real physical actions, not the usual computer-based "games". Much more likely to be valid.
Polistra was named after the original townsite of Manhattan (the one in Kansas). When I was growing up in Manhattan, I spent a lot of time exploring by foot, bike, and car. I discovered the ruins of an old mill along Wildcat Creek, and decided (inaccurately) that it was the remains of the original site of Polistra. Accurate or not, I've always liked the name, with its echoes of Poland (an under-appreciated friend of freedom) and stars. ==== The title icon is explained here. ==== Switchover: This 2007 entry marks a sharp change in worldview from neocon to pure populist. ===== The long illustrated story of Polistra's Dream is a time-travel fable, attempting to answer the dangerous revision of New Deal history propagated by Amity Shlaes. The Dream has 8 episodes, linked in a chain from the first. This entry explains the Shlaes connection.