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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.

  • 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
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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

  • 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
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APOPHENIA

The perception of connections and meaningfulness in unrelated things. Apophenia can be a normal phenomenon or an abnormal one, as in paranoid schizophrenia when the patient sees ominous patterns where there are none.

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'Karma' - often used vernacularly in such manner.

  • 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. – Vector Apr 14 '13 at 1:04
  • I understand karma to mean precisely the opposite. Karma is about the consequences of your actions and choices, that if you live by the sword you are likely to die by it; that if you act with compassion and kindness you are likely to experience situations that arise from such acts, and so on. – Superstringcheese Aug 2 '14 at 15:45
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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.

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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.

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