Why good luck charms seem to work


Whether it’s a lucky rabbit’s foot in your car, a four-leafed clover that you keep in your wallet or some underwear that you wear on exam days, so many of us have a lucky charm that we swear works when we need it to. So why is that?

Is it all in your head?

Well, the short answer is yes. There is no magic to good luck charms, but there is some science. Our minds are very interesting, and if we fully believe something to have an effect, it does. This is why placebo medicines have been known to cure minor illnesses, or at least mask the symptoms – we believe they will work and so they do. The luck you perceive to be having is in your head, but that is exactly why it works!

A study

Back in 2010, German psychologists set up a study in which 28 students were challenged to a game of mini golf where the aim was to putt the ball ten times, from approximately one meter away from the whole. One half of the group were told that their ball had been lucky so far, and the other half were told that it was just the ball that everyone had used. The students with the ‘lucky’ ball, performed 35% better than those who believed that their ball was average!

It’s all about the confidence

Other studies have shown that having a lucky charm with you when you take a test or perform a task makes you feel more confident and this has a direct correlation with success. This is called self-efficacy and is where you believe you have the skills to reach a particular goal. Those with lucky charms also set themselves higher goals and work harder to achieve those targets when compared to those who do not have lucky charms. As these people believed that the charms would help them do well, they were able to be more ambitious.

Self-fulfilling prophecy

More than anything, good luck is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Believing that you have luck on your side is more likely to make you try harder at whatever it is that you are doing. You will also be more aware of good things happening to you as you will be more conscious of your ‘luck.’ Even if you don’t have a specific charm or talisman, if you believe yourself to be a lucky person, you will reap more rewards.

The flip side

Of course, believing in lucky charms isn’t always for the best. For example, if you are taking your driving test and have forgotten your lucky socks, you will automatically feel as if you are set up to fail before you even get in the car. Even if you have the skills and knowledge to pass your test, your mindset will be negative, and you will be more likely to fail. Had you put your ‘lucky’ socks on that morning, you would be more likely to pass (although you would account it to your socks and not all those weeks of hard work and studying!) even though your knowledge and ability have not changed.

Yes, good luck is essentially all in your head, but that does not mean that they are not worth having! If you believe they work, then they will. Good luck!