Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Good Luck Charms and Hope

Keep Your Fingers Crossed! How Superstition Improves Performance

Lysann Damisch, Barbara Stoberock & Thomas Mussweiler
Psychological Science, forthcoming

Abstract: Superstitions are typically seen as inconsequential creations of irrational minds. Nevertheless, many people rely on superstitious thoughts and practices in their daily routines in order to gain good luck. To date, little is known about the consequences and potential benefits of such superstitions. The present research closes this gap by demonstrating performance benefits of superstitions and identifying their underlying psychological mechanisms. Specifically, Experiments 1 through 4 show that activating good-luck-related superstitions via a common saying or action (e.g., “break a leg,” keeping one’s fingers crossed) or a lucky charm improves subsequent performance in golfing, motor dexterity, memory, and anagram games. Furthermore, Experiments 3 and 4 demonstrate that these performance benefits are produced by changes in perceived self-efficacy. Activating a superstition boosts participants’ confidence in mastering upcoming tasks, which in turn improves performance. Finally, Experiment 4 shows that increased task persistence constitutes one means by which self-efficacy, enhanced by superstition, improves performance.


Hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement

Liz Day, Katie Hanson, John Maltby, Carmel Proctor & Alex Wood
Journal of Research in Personality, forthcoming

Abstract: A 3-year longitudinal study explored whether the two-dimensional model of trait hope predicted degree scores after considering intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement. A sample of 129 respondents (52 males, 77 females) completed measures of trait hope, general intelligence, the five factor model of personality, divergent thinking, as well as objective measures of their academic performance before university (‘A’ level grades) and final degree scores. The findings suggest that hope uniquely predicts objective academic achievement above intelligence, personality, and previous academic achievement. The findings are discussed within the context of how it may be fruitful for researchers to explore how hope is related to everyday academic practice.

(Nod to Kevin L)