Assistant Professor of Psychology Jamie Bodenlos notes how superstitious behavior can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder, in an article about Friday the 13th in the Messenger Post.
The article explains the many possible sources of the fear of Friday the 13th and notes Bodenlos “said that superstitious behavior at an extreme level can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder.”
“It’s generally done to decrease anxiety, she said. For example, throwing spilled salt over your shoulder to keep from being cursed is a behavior that can make someone feel better about an incident.”
It goes on to quote her, “A lot of behaviors continue as a result of reinforcement, basically because it removes that aversive situation.”
Bodenlos joined the HWS faculty in 2009 after serving as an instructor in medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. She received a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University and did her post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where she began her research examining comorbidities between obesity and psychological disorders. Bodenlos has several papers published in this area of study.
The article is below.
Watch your luck today: It’s Friday the 13th
Melissa Daniels • August 13, 2010
Some people may lock themselves indoors today, afraid of any missteps or accidents that could come their way. But for Janna Brackett, the day is far from unlucky.
In fact, it’s celebratory – it’s her birthday.
“It’s generally been good lucky, which is odd,” she said. “I haven’t really had anything strange happen on a Friday the 13th. They’ve been uneventful, good days.”
The superstitious may give her unusual looks when she tells them her birthday, she said, but it mostly ends up in laughs. This Friday, she’ll be retiring after working for 32 years at the Monroe #1 BOCES in Fairport, so the day won’t be unlucky but bittersweet.
Annette Rapp of Canandaigua has a strong appreciation for the day, too – she and her husband of 13 (yes, 13) years, Carl, got married on Dec. 13, 1996, a Friday.
The day only brings happy memories, and the couple has 13 grandchildren, too.
“Whenever Friday the 13th hits, we always go out and celebrate,” she said.
Why the fear?
Fear of Friday the 13th, scientifically known as paraskevidekatriaphobia, has been a mainstream concept in the 20th century. The notorious horror movie franchise “Friday the 13th” certainly perpetuated the myth.
But there is no written evidence of the superstition before the late 19th century, according to folklorists.
Still, it’s difficult to pin down the conception of the old superstition.
The unlucky association of the number 13 and the sixth day of the week have separate explanations gathered from events and tales dating back centuries. The modern fear may be an amalgamation of the two existing superstitions.
Some high-rises spare naming a 13th floor, and some airplanes skip the number in their aisle sequences as well, but just how the number came to symbolize what it is does is largely based in lore. Thirteen was at one point regarded as sacred by Pagan cultures, but the rise of Christianity labeled it as bad or unlucky in order to weaken the Pagans’ beliefs. The number 12 is regarded in a number of cultures as signifying harmony; adding another number would introduce discord.
The idea that 13 people shouldn’t sit down for dinner together or one will be killed comes from the Last Supper – attended by Jesus and his 12th disciples – as well as a Norse myth.
Additional tragedies in the Christian tradition are said to have fallen on Fridays – including Jesus’ crucifixion, Adam and Eve being cast out of Eden, and the Great Flood.
Some cite Friday, Oct. 13, 1307 as the reason why the day is synonymous with misfortune. On that day in history, King Philip IV of France ordered the arrest of thousands of the Knights Templar, an order that led to torture and executions.
But 13 also has been considered a lucky number in the past, too, specifically by the Chinese. And the Egyptians believed the number symbolized death as a desirable transformation after 12 steps of life.
An online survey of about 400 visitors on HowStuffWorks.com yielded 77.3 percent of visitors would not change the date of a major event – such as a wedding or a move – because it fell on Friday the 13th.
Based on our current, Gregorian calendar, there’s at least one a year – in some years, as many as three.
This month, Lollypop Farm planned an adoption special to correlate with the day: “13 Days to Change their Luck.” Adult cats were available for $13, and kittens and dogs could be adopted for a $31 discount.
Lollypop communications director Adrienne McHargue said there’s a black cat and dog syndrome that is widely documented in shelters across the country. It may be due to people’s aesthetic tastes for a more colorful animal, or because of bad luck connotations, specifically with cats.
Though some might believe black cats crossing a path are a bad omen, McHargue says the cats are as playful as any others.
“We’re not entirely sure if it has to do with superstitions and bad luck, but right now we have quite a large population of black kittens,” she said. “And they’re all wonderful and individual and playful and full of personality.”
Jamie Bodenlos, an assistant professor of psychology at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, said that superstitious behavior at an extreme level can lead to obsessive-compulsive disorder.
It’s generally done to decrease anxiety, she said. For example, throwing spilled salt over your shoulder to keep from being cursed is a behavior that can make someone feel better about an incident.
“A lot of behaviors continue as a result of reinforcement, basically because it removes that aversive situation,” she said.
There’s the idea that other signs of bad luck – such as breaking a mirror or walking under a ladder – are extra-unlucky if they happen on a Friday the 13th.
Regardless of the truth behind the myth, Friday the 13th may be a day best spent indoors. There’s nothing unlucky about starting the weekend early.
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