Today's news of Amy Winehouse's death is tragic not only due to the fact that she had so much talent, but also because she was young, and her death was most likely brought on by her addictions. 

Amy Winehouse was 27 years old when she died. There are also a number of other famous musicians who died at 27.  Those musicians include:

  • Amy Winehouse
  • Kurt Cobain
  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Jim Morrison
  • Brian Jones

Joplin, Hendrix, Morrison, and Jones all died within two years of each other.

Why does it seem that young musicians have died at 27?  There is a "Forever 27 Club" listing on Wikipedia, and people have created websites about a "27 Curse".  

Is this just coincidence?  Or is there really a "27 Curse"?

There is a social psychology phenomenon known as causal attribution.  This is when a person (or society) attributes outcomes to particular causes. When there is a tragic young death of a famous person, we tend to look for some reason why it happened, or in this case, why these deaths collectively happened.  We try to make sense of it.  And when we can't make sense of it, we find a way for it to make sense.  So the "27 Curse" began.

Attributing causes helps give us order and predictability to our lives.

Consider:

  • A majority of famous musicians, many of whom who have admitted to past drug use, have lived well past 27 years old.  
  • All of the musicians listed above had a history of drug use, with Joplin, Morrison, and Hendrix (and possibly Winehouse) either directly or indirectly dying as a result of drug use. Drug use is just more likely to cause health issues (like death), whether you are a musician or not. 
  • Famous musicians tend to do things that the general population does not.  For example, famous musicians tend fly in small aircraft more than the general population, and several famous musicians, of varying ages, have died in small aircraft crashes. 
  • There are a number of famous musicians who died at 21, but there is no "21 curse".  One could argue that they weren't as famous as the musicians listed above, but deaths of very famous people (especially unexpected ones) tend to be more memorable to us overall.   

Causal attribution helps us feel better by giving predictability to an unpredictible world, but our attributions are not always completely accurate.

www.stephaniesarkis.com

Copyright 2011 Sarkis Media LLC

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