Wednesday, 6 September 2006

The Cardigan of Death

Bristol University Professor Bruce Hood performed an interesting experiment at the British Association Festival of Science. He wanted to demonstrate that even rational people will behave superstitiously under the right conditions, so he offered festival goers £10 to put on an unremarkable blue cardigan. Only a few accepted. The reason for turning down the dosh was not the dagginess of the cardie, although that would be understandable, but that it had once belonged to serial killer Fred West*.

Unfortunately, Professor Hood stopped his experiment too early for me. What I want to know is how much cash does it take to overcome the aversion? Surely there's a tipping point where greed wins out. (For me, that's about ... oh, let's see ... £10. Thank you very much.)

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*It didn't. Which is just as well, because you'd have to ask questions about someone who keeps West's cardigan in the wardrobe. And that brings me to another point—why didn't these allegedly rational people twig that it was most unlikely to be the murderer's property? Did this experiment select for gullibility?

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