Rubin acknowledges that “Superstition is the irrational belief that an object or behavior has the power to influence an outcome, when there’s no logical connection between them. Most of us aren’t superstitious – but most of us are a ‘littlestitious.’” So is superstition sense or nonsense? Researchshows that charms, magical beliefs, or rituals make people feel empowered and help them achieve superior results.
In a paper for the journal Psychological Science, University of Cologne psychologists Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock and Thomas Mussweiler describe research with actors in which “activating good-luck-related superstitions … or a lucky charm improves subsequent performance.”
As Damisch explains: “the activation of superstitious thinking directly prior to a task may boost a person’s confidence in his or her ability to succeed – what’s known as self-efficacy – which in turn boosts expectations and persistence, thus improving performance.” In a blog post for the Association for Psychological Science, psychologist Wray Herbert commented on the study: “The results were unambiguous … those with their personal lucky charms … were much more confident going into the performance … which added up to (an) excellent performance.”
Magical or not, we’d better keep our fingers crossed and avoid walking under ladders: The Cologne psychologists plan to repeat their experiments using bad luck superstitions to see if they might have a negative effect on confidence and performance.