Lucky charms really do improve our performance—so don't toss out that shamrock at midnight on March 17. Damisch, Stoberock, and Mussweiler published a study examining how superstitions influence us in a 2010 edition of Psychological Science ("Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance," vol. 21, no. 7). They scrutinized physical tasks (for example, involving motor dexterity) and cognitive ones (such as solving word games and memory assignments) to learn more about superstitious behavior.

In short, lucky charms (and superstitions, for that matter) work because they make us more confident. The authors define superstitions as "irrational beliefs that an object, action, or circumstance that is not logically related to a course of events influences its outcome." In technical terms, acting on a superstition (for example, crossing your fingers) or keeping your lucky charm close at hand increases "perceived self-efficacy." This means acting on superstitions or toting around lucky charms boosts our "confidence in mastering upcoming tasks, which in turn improves performance."

Irrationality wins out again!

Recent Posts in People, Places, and Things

Cook Out to Keep Things Cool

Barbecue your way to mental peace.

The Surprising Effect of Color on Your Mind and Mood

Your guide to which colors will make your mind pop.


Get out those knitting needles and that glue gun. Crafting is good for you.

The Joy of Stuff

Clutter is bad, stuff is good.

Close Your Eyes to Remember

Shutting your eyes can open up your mind.

Full Moon Does Matter!

An "out of this world" influence on how you sleep.