How Superstitions Can Actually Benefit You, Plus 7 Athletes Who Buy Into Them

Stevie Wonder has tried to tell us that “superstition ain’t the way,” but no matter how many times we have heard him sing it, we still have not heeded his warning. And it is a good thing too, because it turns out that Stevie had it all wrong. Superstition is the way.

Though I don’t consider myself an overly superstitious person, when I was struggling with infertility years ago, I wore a symbol of strength every day around my neck. The moment I saw that necklace I just knew it was what I needed to help me through. Did the necklace help me get pregnant? Did it prevent me from breaking down at times? Nope, it did not do either of those things. Yet it gave me a teeny tiny sense that I was helping myself in some way that I couldn’t quite explain.

Superstition is why football fans wear their jerseys every Sunday, why a stockbroker may eat the same breakfast during a good trading streak, why brides still wear or carry something blue, why hockey players sometimes stop shaving their beards during the playoffs, or why we still cross our fingers when we want something good to happen.

A study in the Journal of Consumer Research says that people engage in these types of superstitious behavior when they want to achieve something but don’t have the power to make it happen, from willing our football team to a win, or winning reelection. Maybe even to become pregnant. In any of those cases, the superstitious behavior helps us feel as if we have some small element of control over the outcome.

We can even become conditioned to associate certain products with success or failure. If a sports fan is wearing a specific item or using a certain product when his or her team wins, that person is more likely to repeat the behavior thinking that it might somehow help the team in the future. On Wall Street you can hear all sorts of crazy stories about traders who followed the same exact routine for days on end, from eating the same foods to hailing a taxi on the same corner, so as not to upset their trading streak.

Well, believers, guess what? Research shows that to some extent, superstitions work. Scientists performed a series of tests and found that engaging in superstitious thoughts and behaviors, such as a good luck charm, can help someone to reach their peak level of performance. It gives them the confidence boost needed to achieve more.

Here are 7 famously accomplished athletes (including a few non-athletes too good to leave out), and their almost equally famous superstitions:

  • 7 Famous People & Their Superstitions 1 of 8
  • Tiger Woods 2 of 8
    Tiger Woods, Source Wikimedia

    When Tiger Woods first burst onto the golf scene as a teen we noticed that he wore red shirts every golf Sunday since then. This superstition began because his mother had told him that red is a power color.


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  • Michael Jordan 3 of 8
    Michael Jordan

    Michael Jordan famously wore his University of North Carolina shorts under his Chicago Bulls uniform because he had led UNC to the NCAA Championships in 1982, and thought the shorts might bring him luck in the NBA.


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  • Bjorn Borg 4 of 8
    Bjorn Borg

    Swedish tennis legend Björn Borg let his beard grow in and wore the same shirt every year at Wimbledon. After winning the tournament five straight times, people in other sports began following suit. What is now commonplace in the NHL actually comes from across the pond at Wimbledon.


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  • Serena Williams 5 of 8
    Serena Williams

    Also from the world of tennis, Serena Williams has been well-known for a superstition of her own -- wearing a pair of shower sandals before every match. She also double-checks her shoelaces before matches, and bounces the ball a set number of times before each serve. Five times before a first serve and twice before a second serve, in case you were wondering.


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  • Meatloaf 6 of 8

    The Los Angeles Times has reported that long-time rocker Meatloaf travels with his teddy bears for good luck. Their names are Mani and Marietta. We don't get it either.

  • Sanya Richards-Ross 7 of 8
    Sanya Richards-Ross

    Olympic runner (and winner of the 400 meter gold medal in London) Sanya Richards-Ross wears a bullet necklace given to her by her mom for every race. Well, all but one race. Sanya told radio station WAMU that, "I remember the one time I didn't race with it. I finished third."


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

  • Barack Obama 8 of 8
    President Obama

    According to, during his first campaign run, President Barack Obama traveled with a bracelet belonging to a soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler's lucky chip, a tiny monkey god, and a tiny Madonna and child. Hey, it worked!


    Photo Credit: Wikimedia

So the next time you feel like you could use a little luck, go ahead and grab that charm. It might be just what you needed!


Jessica also recently wrote:
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Read more from Jessica at  And be sure to follow her on Twitter too!

Article Posted 3 years Ago

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