We Can All Share in the Luck of the Irish

This is a photo of a four leaf clover.We all have our lucky charms. Whether it’s a four leaf clover, rabbit’s foot, or that “lucky” T-shirt we can’t seem to part with, our charms are with us in times of need. Superstitions may seem like irrational hocus-pocus, but a study published in Psychological Science found that having a lucky charm does in fact enhance performance.

Psychological scientists at the University of Cologne, Germany, found that volunteers who used a “lucky ball” performed better in a subsequent golf putting task than participants who used a neutral ball. Similarly, volunteers who kept their fingers crossed finished a dexterity task faster than participants in a control condition did.

So why do lucky charms work? Having a lucky charm on hand heightens a person’s perceived self-efficacy — that is, their feeling of confidence to master an upcoming task. Carrying a lucky charm seems irrational, but the boost of confidence it brings can really improve your performance.

Damisch, L., Stoberock, B., & Mussweiler, T. (2010). Keep your fingers crossed! How superstition improves performance. Psychological Science, 21, 1014–1020.

Observer Vol.24, No.3 March, 2011

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