Red candle...Will it help me pass the exam?


Red candle...Will it help me pass the exam? Exam fever pushes many students to act in incredibly strange ways and turn towards rituals and superstitions to help themselves pass the exams. Stuart Vyse, PhD, and the author of ‘Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition’, calls this as superstitious or magical thinking.

I am a student. I believe that Feng Shui, numerology, vaastu will help me pass my exam. I want to divert my mind from all this. Please help me.

-Angela, Tirumulgiri

Fear is the main source of superstition. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom
- Bertrand Russell
Exam fever pushes many students to act in incredibly strange ways and turn towards rituals and superstitions to help themselves pass the exams. Stuart Vyse, PhD, and the author of ‘Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition’, calls this as superstitious or magical thinking. Vyse says our locus of control can be a factor contributing to whether or not we are superstitious. If we have an internal locus of control, we believe that we are in charge of everything; we are the master of our fate and we can make things happen. He says that people with external locus of control are more likely to be superstitious, possibly as a way of getting more power over their lives.
Superstitions are common in situations like exams where you are unsure about the outcome and feel that negative consequences of the event are unbearable. They give false sense of satisfaction and only create doubts and confusion. However, no matter how silly and meaningless these superstitions may appear, they are wide spread and have significant impact on our lives.
Here I do not want to discuss about the rationality and scientific evidence of the above practices which is not in the scope of psychology but rather want to discuss the psychological effects of over-dependence on such practices.
A recent Gallup poll suggests that being superstition is often imbibed by us as children. Childhood experiences have significant contributions in developing such attitude.
Effects of superstitions on student life:
1. Loss of concentration: Indulging in ritualistic and superstitious activities can certainly have negative effects on the studies. A mind which turns towards beliefs and rituals lacks concentration and get easily distracted with smallest stimuli. This may result in decreased performance in studies and may lead to failure.
2. Lack of interest in studies: Students may become more excited about the new practices and find more interest in it that rather than in curriculum. This can lead to lack or total loss of interest in studies.
3. Mental disorders: When a person’s personal experience in superstition leads to a strong belief, it becomes a tough task to make the person realise the reality from truth. This can result in paranoia and other mental conditions (OCD). This may lead to even reality distortions.
4. Disturbs the development of the personality in student: Developing over-dependence on superstitious practices distracts the child and makes them lose focus on studies. The student fails to learn the necessary skills and virtues to live in this society. He/she may start seeking and searching for shortcuts.
Remedies to get rid of
superstitious thinking:
l Find ways to prove to yourself that these superstitions have no basis in reality: Develop rational thinking and a positive attitude. Challenge your belief that the outcome of your exam depends on superstitious rituals or other such activities.
l Develop Self- Reliance: Overdependence on superstitions makes you less confident about your control on your life. You start depending on rituals to control your life and this starts a vicious circle. Take responsibility for your actions and reduce the dependence on rituals.
l Remove Fear of Failure: Each failure will make you yearn to relapse into your previous ritualistic tendencies. Do not give up if you encounter a few failures. Learn lessons from these setbacks and move on.
l Start preparation from the beginning of the session.
Do not wait until the exam starts. If you are fully prepared for exam, you would have no fear during exam. So to avoid exam stress you should start your efforts from the first day of session.
l Time out. To prevent mental fatigue, take a short break as soon as you notice your mind is losing concentration. Stick to activities that do not break your study continuum during these breaks. You will then be able to come back to your revision refreshed.
l Allot sufficient time to Sleep: According to experts, eight hour of sleep is sufficient as well as essential for having a calm and healthy mind. But for students, it can be reduced to seven hours. Since you cannot avoid late-night studies, try to balance your sleep hours and ensure you get sufficient sleep.
l Visualise success instead of negative thoughts of failure. Have the hope of success. Never think of failure during the days of exam. If you do, you are inviting stress to overpower you.
l Do Mental Exercise: Mental exercises such as meditation is very useful in increasing concentration power. This is one of the most significant methods to get rid of tension during exam time.
l Keep distance from junk foods: Try to avoid eating junk food and also meat, soft drinks, chocolates etc. Don't drink too much
coffee, tea or fizzy drinks. Caffeine will keep you up and reduce the clarity
of your thinking. Drink lots of water because it helps to make our body and mind cool and think better.
In today's scientific world, it is necessary that we do not blindly follow all the superstitions.
We should have a judicious look for some logical reason behind every superstition before accepting it. We would then be able to give up those superstitions which have no rationality and applications in today's life.
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