Some Science Behind Lucky Charms

That four leaf clover may really mean good things are coming your way!.

They have been around forever, and are widely used by professional athletes, performers, and brides, but the effectiveness of good luck charms are often thought to be all in someone's mind. As it turns out, that old horseshoe, rabbit's foot or amulet to bring you good luck may actually be working, likely because their benefits may be all in your mind! There are a number of ways that you can improve your luck, and having a lucky charm may be one of them.

This article explains why.

It is all in your mind

The key to success with anything is mostly in your mind. People who excel in their lives typically share the same approach to life, which is often their mental game. Visualization, for example, is a tool that activates the power of your mind to bring your desires to life.

Research has shown that a reason why lucky charms and superstition may improve performance is because of what they do to your mind. That lucky stone you found that helps you ace any presentation you have to give may be a meaningless rock to the next person. It is really not about the charm itself, but what you think of it.  

How do lucky charms help improve performance?

Psychologist Lysann Damisch of the University of Koln, Germany, has researched the effects of superstition and good luck charms on performance. Some of her research has shown that a lucky charm can improve performance because of the effects it has on someone's perceived self-efficacy.

Self-efficacy is a term made famous by the psychologist Albert Bandura and refers to one's sense of how capable he or she is at being able to accomplish certain things. Damisch and her colleagues found that as a result of the increased self-efficacy, not only did performance improve, but persistence did as well.

More details about the research

Damisch and her colleagues ran several experiments to explore whether superstition or "feeling lucky" had anything to do with performance, and found it did. They then ran a few more experiments to help determine how the superstition helped.

In the first experiment, participants were divided into two groups. Each group was asked to putt a golf ball a few feet. One group was told they were putting a lucky ball and the other group was not. Sure enough, the group that was told they had a lucky ball performed better.

In the second experiment, participants were again divided into two groups. This time, they were to complete a difficult game involving motor dexterity. One group was told by a researcher, "I'm keeping my fingers crossed for you," and the other group was not told anything. Once again, the "lucky" group performed better.

Later experiments demonstrated why the perceived luck helped participants perform better. It showed that participants with the "luck" on their side went into the tasks with greater confidence. Increased confidence improved not only performance but also persistence at the task at hand.

The take home message?

Do whatever it takes to believe in yourself more.

If a lucky charm or a ritual helps you feel stronger and more confident, use it, and you will be more successful as a result.


Damisch L, Stoberock B & Mussweiler T. (2010). Keep your fingers crossed: how superstition improves performance. Psychological Science. 21(7): 1013-1020.

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