The Bad Science section of the Guardian Newspaper reports on a report (the second of which requires subscription to view) that Superstition actually works. Why is this in the ‘Bad Science’ section? Surely any properly conducted trial is good science?
But that aside, it seems that the people who believe in good/back luck, when given a positive reinforcer, actually perform better.
In one test they gave 28 students, most of whom ‘believed in good luck’ a golf ball – some of the students were told it was a ‘lucky’ ball, and the rest told it was a normal ball. The students receiving the lucky ball scored higher – with a mean score of 6.42 as opposed to the normal-ball students who scored 4.75. (does this just prove that the quality of students is declining?)
If this sounds silly – tell it to Mike Tyson whose later fights were all in his ‘lucky’ black shorts. One time they went missing and he fell into a desperate funk until they were found. Or to boxer George Foreman, who sought to cleanse himself of the bad fortune of being beaten by Ali – at the historical record breaking age of 45 he recaptured the World Heavyweight Belt … wearing the same short he wore in the Ali fight 20 years earlier.
A further test had similar results. Asked to complete a dexterity puzzle, some of the students were encouraged with a ‘good luck’ phrase. The rest were just told to go ahead. The former group finished the task faster.
Finally good luck charms helped a lot too. With their lucky charm nearby, students worked faster, for longer, with higher expectation that the control group.
What has all this got to do with us?
Do you ever take a taxi? See the lucky charms on the dashboard and rv mirror? The drivers believe the amulets will save them from accidents. According to the above research then, it just may be true!