5. To name is to rule. […] After watching sugar being poured into two glasses of water and then personally affixing a “sucrose” label to one and a “poison” label to the other, people much prefer to drink from the “sucrose” glass and will even shy away from one they label “not poison.” (The subconscious doesn’t process negatives.) Rozin has also found that people are reluctant to tear up a piece of paper with a loved one’s name written on it. Arbitrary symbols carry the essence of what they represent.
I also like this bit on rituals and luck:
People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.
We need some delusions to keep us going. And the people who successfully delude themselves seem happier than the people who can’t.