How Superstitions Improve Performance

Experiments reveal that simple superstitions like lucky charms can improve motor and cognitive performance.

Professional athletes are particularly prone to superstitions, perhaps because so much rides on split-second timing, or what seems like luck.

Two dominant US sportsmen with superstitious behaviour are golfer Tiger Woods who always wears a red shirt on Tournament Sundays and basketball player Michael Jordan who wore the same blue undershorts throughout his career.

We tend to think of this behaviour as irrational, despite feeling the pull of superstition ourselves. New research published in Psychological Science, however, asks whether these superstitions are irrational if they work.

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