Illusory correlation can be defined as “the perception of a relationship where none exists” (Wede Psych 100 Lecture 3). In my life, illusory correlation exists primarily in superstitions that I have held onto as I’ve gotten older, though in general, it is prominent in other circumstances such as prejudice, stereotypes, and seeing order in random events when there is, in fact, no order whatsoever.
I have been superstitious since I was about nine years old. At this age, I had just begun competing in dance competitions, where everyone would discuss their “lucky shoes” or how they hadn’t sat in this spot last time they performed well, so they had to move to the same area as before or they would perform poorly. It was at this point in my life that I realized I didn’t have any objects I considered “lucky,” nor did I have any ritual to ensure a good performance. So, of course, I looked for “lucky” things as soon as I got home. It was only a few weeks later that I bought a small rubber frog from a coin machine at the movie theater. His name became “Lucky Frog,” and from that point on I made sure he was at every soccer game, every dance competition, and of course he was always at school with me whenever I had a test. At first I didn’t really think of him as an actual lucky charm, but as time went on, I depended on him more and more. About six months after I bought him, there was a math test at school. Unfortunately, the night before the test, my dog ate “Lucky Frog,” swallowing him whole. There was no time to buy a new one (not that I believed a new one would be lucky like the original) and I had to take a test the next day without him for the first time in what felt like years. As it turned out, I did fine on the test, in fact, I got an A. I then realized he was never lucky at all, but that I had just believed he was so I would feel better about whatever it was I wanted to do well in—soccer, school, or dance. This is the first experience I can recall of ever having illusory correlation present in my life. Even being so young, I realized the frog was never lucky; he was always just a frog. However, since I believed so wholeheartedly that he was lucky, I believed I was going to perform well while he was there, and so I did do well, but because I was confident in myself, not because of “Lucky Frog.” Though I realized this a long time ago, to this day I still hold onto some superstitions like wearing my “lucky” socks on exam day and eating certain things at certain times before an important event. I know they are just illusory correlations, but for some reason they still help me feel confident in myself when I need it.