Luck Superstitions

There are all sorts of luck superstitions out there. Some are about about what brings more good luck and some about things that cause bad luck. But is there any validity to any of them? There might be--just a little--according to recent research. We'll get back to that in a moment. First let's look at some of these superstitious beliefs.

Good Luck Superstitions

Four leaf clover; it predicts or bring good fortune.

Birthday cake candles; blow them all out on the first try and you'll get your secret wish.

Garlic; hang it in the house and it will ward off bad things.

Itchy right hand; it means you're going to come into some money.

Other superstitious beliefs include getting lucky because you dream about a white cat, put sugar in the cup before the tea, catch a falling leaf on the first day of autumn, see a white butterfly early in spring, or step on your shadow. I'm not sure that last one is even possible, but feel free to try. Now let's look at...

Bad Luck Superstitions

Umbrellas; to open one indoors brings misfortune.

Mirrors; break one and you'll have seven years of bad luck.

Itchy left hand; it means you'll lose money soon.

Owls; if one hoots in your yard it is a sign of bad things to come.

Ladders; walking under one will bring misfortune.

Other superstitious beliefs include being unlucky as a result of dreaming of dogs, sleeping with your feet toward a door, whistling at night, starting a trip on a Friday, and sleeping on a table. The latter will at least make you sore in the morning, which won't feel too lucky.

Nonsense! (or not?)

Most superstitions are pure nonsense, although they don't all have to be. We could design a superstition that would be later validated by research. For example, we could get people believing that for good luck they should call the five luckiest people they know and talk to them in order to get "luck energy." Almost certainly people who are identified as lucky will be more likely to put the caller in a better state of mind, and more likely to know of opportunities that might be available.

But existing superstitions are largely harmful. We waste mental energy and suffer needlessly if we worry about black cats crossing our path. We throw money away gambling if we think we have an edge due to a lucky rabbit's foot.

Still, there is a type of superstitiousness which may not be so bad, and might even help. Recent research done at the University of Cologne in Germany found that college students who relied on good luck charms did better on tasks that involved memory and motor skills. In related tests it was found that just calling something lucky made a difference. For example, when told that their golf balls were lucky ones, students performed better on putting challenges.

So should you be superstitious? Probably not. There are too many ways in which it can cause you to make bad decisions. On the other hand, if you are doing things other than gambling, and you have your lucky hat on, it may not make sense to take it off just to be "more rational." An archer who has a feather as a charm might actually shoot better than if he gives up his superstition.

Personally, I have no luck superstitions, and in Secrets of Lucky People I take a much more scientific approach. But if the science says a lucky shirt can help a salesman close more deals, I won't argue.

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