Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Is there a single word to describe the belief that one's actions can affect unrelated outcomes, especially relating to luck.

e.g. Every time I bet against Team A, they win.

Or

If I wear my blue socks, it'll rain.

share|improve this question
1  
superstitions, perhaps? –  Armen Ծիրունյան Apr 13 '13 at 21:21
    
You might want to read this, too. –  J.R. Apr 13 '13 at 21:22
    
J.R. That's what I was after. Would you like to post it as an answer. –  James Webster Apr 13 '13 at 23:13
add comment

4 Answers

Superstition.

a pejorative term for belief in supernatural causality: that one event leads to the cause of another without any physical process linking the two events

share|improve this answer
    
I hadn't thought of superstition! I often overlook the simple answers. It turned out the phrase I was after was: non sequitur or the fallacy of false cause and particularly the special case of post hoc ergo propter hoc –  James Webster Apr 13 '13 at 23:13
    
Yours is certainly a much more charitable term than the one that first came to my own mind, which was crazy. –  tchrist Apr 14 '13 at 18:36
add comment

'Karma' - often used vernacularly in such manner.

share|improve this answer
    
I thought "karma" meant "what goes around comes around," and has nothing to do with causation of two unrelated events, such as wearing blue socks and a rainstorm. An example of karma: a person gets out of a tight spot by lying, but he then gets into a tight spot six years later because someone else lied. In other words, you reap what you sow, although not always in a predictable way. Occasionally, for example, someone commits the perfect murder with impunity--that is, until he dies. In his case, there's always the final assize, because, as with all of us, God WILL get the last word. –  rhetorician Apr 14 '13 at 1:01
    
That's why I added 'vernacularly'. It is sometimes used to mean 'dumb luck' etc - although it's not really a correct usage. –  comeAndGo Apr 14 '13 at 1:04
add comment

The original post gives a couple of different examples of magical thinking; specifically associative thinking. I don't think there's a single word that encapsulates the belief process fully, but perhaps a snake will cross my threshold at midnight, and someone else will come up with a properly broad term.

share|improve this answer
add comment
up vote 0 down vote accepted

J.R. actually found this answer but posted it as a comment

It turned out the phrase I was after was: non sequitur or the fallacy of false cause and particularly the special case of post hoc ergo propter hoc

As it happens, I was wrong about it being a "single word", and the answer is barely English, more of a Latin loan-phrase!

Fallacy of false cause or non sequitur: incorrectly assumes one thing is the cause of another. Non Sequitur is Latin for "It does not follow."

[Source]

post hoc ergo propter hoc - "after this, therefore because of this". e.g. After I parked my car, it was because of parking my car the sun came out.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.