Flashback Friday the 13th: How superstition improves performance.

By Seriously Science | June 13, 2014 6:00 am
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Photo: flickr/discoodoni

Since you’re reading a science website, you’re probably not the type of person to buy into superstition. But according to this study, you might want to reconsider. It turns out that superstition, if you believe in it, can actually improve performance in activities ranging from golf to word games. The authors suggest that this effect of “good-luck” superstitions is due to a boost in the self-confidence of the person receiving the “luck.” The study did not address whether bad luck has the opposite effect, but just in case, you might want to skip your golf game today. Happy Friday the 13th!

Keep your fingers crossed!: how superstition improves performance.

“Superstitions are typically seen as inconsequential creations of irrational minds. Nevertheless, many people rely on superstitious thoughts and practices in their daily routines in order to gain good luck. To date, little is known about the consequences and potential benefits of such superstitions. The present research closes this gap by demonstrating performance benefits of superstitions and identifying their underlying psychological mechanisms. Specifically, Experiments 1 through 4 show that activating good-luck-related superstitions via a common saying or action (e.g., “break a leg,” keeping one’s fingers crossed) or a lucky charm improves subsequent performance in golfing, motor dexterity, memory, and anagram games. Furthermore, Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrate that these performance benefits are produced by changes in perceived self-efficacy. Activating a superstition boosts participants’ confidence in mastering upcoming tasks, which in turn improves performance. Finally, Experiment 4 shows that increased task persistence constitutes one means by which self-efficacy, enhanced by superstition, improves performance.”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Saint Paddy’s Day Bonus: Not so luck of the Irish.
NCBI ROFL: Honesty when lighting votive candles in church: an informal look.
NCBI ROFL: Golfers’ putting improves if they think the hole is larger.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: super powers, told you so
  • Gerhard Adam

    I’m not sure why this is surprising.

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Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
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