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Can good luck charms boost performance?


In the realm of superstition, horseshoes are kind of humdrum. That is, until you find one in an unusual spot. Several years ago, I found one on a soccer field before a match and took it as a sign of good luck. (Never mind that the field was a converted cow pasture.) My team won the game and, consequently, I carried around the horseshoe for years.

My lucky horseshoe came to mind today while reading findings published in Psychological Science on how superstitions influence performance. In the study, German researchers designed a set of experiments to see if activating superstitious beliefs made them excel at specific tasks. According to the release:

In one of the experiments, volunteers were told to bring a lucky charm with them. Then the researchers took it away to take a picture. People brought in all kinds of items, from old stuffed animals to wedding rings to lucky stones. Half of the volunteers were given their charm back before the test started; the other half were told there was a problem with the camera equipment and they would get it back later. Volunteers who had their lucky charm did better at a memory game on the computer, and other tests showed that this difference was because they felt more confident. They also set higher goals for themselves. Just wishing someone good luck ... improved volunteers’ success at a task that required manual dexterity.

The research is far from definitive, but it's intriguing to consider how superstitious beliefs could affect our actions. What do you think? Do lucky charms improve your performance?

Via Science Daily
Photo by Robby McKee

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