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
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
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
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
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.