FRIDAY, July 16 (HealthDay News) -- Nervous about an upcoming
presentation at work, or concerned you'll strike out at the company
Taking along a lucky charm might boost your performance,
according to a new study.
So if you have a lucky rabbit's foot or an outfit that's landed
you a job or promotion in the past, take advantage.
Having some kind of lucky token appears to increase
self-confidence and thus performance, says Lysann Damisch, an
assistant professor of psychology at the University of Cologne in
Germany and leader of the study published in the July issue of
Damisch came to that conclusion after evaluating the effects of
"lucky" golf balls, charms and simple wishes of "good luck" on
performance in a series of experiments.
She set out to study the link after noticing that many athletes,
even star players, hold superstitions. According to Damisch,
Michael Jordan wore his college team shorts under his NBA uniform
for good luck, and Tiger Woods dons a red shirt on tournament
Sundays, usually the last day of play. Other athletes latch on to
lucky charms, too.
In one experiment, Damisch asked participants to bring a lucky
charm to the study center. People presented a variety of items,
such as wedding rings, special stones and well-loved stuffed
After removing the good luck charms to take a photograph, the
researchers returned the charms to half the participants and told
the others they would get theirs back later.
The participants then took a computerized memory test, and those
who had their lucky charms did better. Other evaluations attributed
the difference to greater confidence.
In another experiment, 28 college students practiced putting
golf balls. Some were given golf balls deemed "lucky"; others
received golf balls with no mention of luck.
Those with the ''lucky'' golf balls performed better, the study
In a third evaluation, 51 German women were asked to complete a
motor-dexterity task, placing small balls into holes in a slab.
Those who were told a German expression equivalent to "I'll keep my
fingers crossed" did better than those who were simply told when to
Superstitious beliefs may boost confidence, Damisch said.
"Especially in situations where people feel a bit insecure and thus
want to gain some confidence -- for example, before a tournament,
an exam, a job interview, an audition, our results suggest that it
is helpful to have a little lucky charm close by."
But a talisman's power to bring good fortune isn't foolproof.
"This strategy of course still does not guarantee that people win
the tournament, pass the exam or get the job, but it seems that
they perform at least a little bit better than without a lucky
charm close by," Damisch said.
The study findings make sense to Stuart Vyse, author of
Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition and a
professor of psychology at Connecticut College in New London,
"It has long been assumed that superstition provided psychological benefits, but this is the first study to provide strong evidence of this effect," Vyse said.
Provided the lucky charm is small enough to fit in a pocket or
purse, or is attire that no one but you knows is "lucky," it could
become your secret weapon.
For information about superstition and good moods, visit the
American Psychological Association.