By Dimitris Xygalatas

Studies show that, when people experience uncertainty and lack of control, they are more likely to see patterns or regularities where there are none. These patterns can range from visual illusions (such as seeing faces in the clouds) to seeing causality in random events and forming conspiracy theories.

Under these circumstances people are also more likely to turn to ritualized behaviors. This is known as the compensatory control model: We compensate for lack of control in one domain by seeking it in another.

Whether this sense of control is illusory is of little importance. What matters is that ritual can be an efficient coping mechanism, and this is why those domains of life that involve high stakes and uncertain outcomes are rife with rituals.