Many of us have a lucky charm we take with us for important exams or presentations. Before a sports competition or concert, we wish the athletes or musicians good luck. And many world class athletes are known for sticking to certain rites when competing. For example, basketball legend Michael Jordan always wears a certain pair of shorts underneath his basketball uniform. Is it all superstition without effect? Or does superstition really contribute to improved performance?
Researchers Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock, and Thomas Mussweiler found superstitious beliefs to enhance performance in a golf putting task, in a motor dexterity task, in an anagram task, and in a memory task. They see the reasons for this improvement in the fact that superstition boosts participants’ self-efficacy, that is, their belief in being able to master the task. And this, together with increased persistence when performing the task, leads to significantly increased performance on various tasks.
The concept of self-efficacy is well-studied and has again and again proven to influence performance on various tasks. The present study shows one more way of boosting self-efficacy, a way that is cheap and easy – at least for those who believe in the power of their lucky charms or of good wishes. So for all the believers: Good luck for your next exam or presentation!