Superstitions, particularly in Eastern cultures, often inform decisions, from the mundane to the life-changing. Existing research links a superstitious mindset to a higher likelihood of engaging in riskier behaviors, such as gambling. A new Social Marketing Quarterly article seeks to explore different styles of superstition and the way in which these styles may impact a tendency towards risk. In their paper “Exploring Different Types of Superstitious Beliefs in Risk-Taking Behaviors: What We Can Learn From Thai Consumers,” authors Sydney Chinchanachokchai, Theeranuch Pusaksrikit, and Siwarit Pongsakornrungsilp examine differences between passive and proactive superstitious consumers. Passive superstition involves a strong belief in fate or destiny; these individuals feel that their luck is beyond their control. Proactive superstitious individuals, however, may practice certain rituals for to attract good luck or ward off evil forces. The researchers summarize:
The impact of superstitious beliefs on decision making and how they affect both business and consumers has been observed for several decades. Chinese consumers are willing to pay premium for something that contains number “8” and Thai consumers will do the same for number “9”. Those numbers are considered good luck and prosperity in the cultures. There are times that consumers make irrational decisions based on superstitious beliefs. Our paper explores different types of superstitious beliefs and how they affect risk-taking behaviors. We chose Thailand as a context because Thai consumers are known for their superstitions. We found that people who are “passive superstitious” (meaning that they believe in fate and generally do not take any superstitious action to control the situation) make riskier decisions when they received superstitious objects (e.g., lucky charms). These people do not usually go out and seek superstitious objects or practice superstitious rituals. As online gambling, online financial investments, and other risk-taking activities become more accessible to consumers, knowing that individuals may be either proactive or passive superstitious, the marketing campaigns for these types of products should be carefully monitored and regulated as some promotional tactics may trigger risky decisions.
So while passive superstitious consumers may be highly influenced by magical objects, proactive superstitious consumers are less likely to modify their behavior based on such an object.