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In the first experiment, Damisch asked a number of golfers to have a go at holing a one metre putt. Easy peasy, you might say. But, of course, many missed. However, when he repeated the experiment on another hole, again from one metre, the number of successful putts increased by 33%. Why? Because this time he handed each golfer his ‘lucky ball’. And with that, more of them simply believed they would hole the putt.
Damisch repeated the experiment twice more in studies that tested both memory and puzzle-solving abilities. Again – fingers crossed – the results were markedly improved when the participant was given a ‘lucky charm’ as part of the experiment. The researchers concluded that these superstitions improved performance because they gave people the confidence to aim higher and keep trying.
So it seems that believing in superstition helps to relieve nervous tension and allows us the illusion of control in what is sometimes a scary, random world. So have a good look through your underwear drawer; fish out that favourite old tie and believe……………………….
Philip Hesketh is a professional speaker on the psychology of persuasion. His book ‘How To Be More Persuasive and Influential’ is an Amazon best seller.