The superstition survey
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Prof Richard Wiseman teamed up with the British Association for the Advancement of Science to carry out a large scale study examining the psychology of superstition and luck.

4000 people took part in this a large on-line survey and were asked if they considered themselves lucky or unlucky, and whether they carried out various superstitious behaviours.

The results revealed that lucky people tend to carry out superstitious behaviours that are designed to bring them good luck – such as touching wood, crossing their fingers and carrying a lucky charm. In contrast, unlucky people believe in superstitions that bring bad luck – such as breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder or having anything to do with the number 13.

The differences are substantial – for example, 49% of lucky people regularly cross their fingers compared to just 30% of unlucky people. Likewise, just 18% of lucky people become anxious if they break a mirror, compared to 40% of unlucky people. Perhaps most important of all for Friday, 55% of unlucky people dread the number 13, compared to just 22% of lucky people.

The results support the notion that people make their own luck – lucky people carry out behaviours that make them feel good, whereas unlucky people’s superstition cause them to expect the worst.

The survey also revealed the UK’s top superstitions and the percentage of people endorsing each of them:

1: Touching wood – 86%
2: Crossing fingers – 64%
3: Walking under a ladder – 49%
4: Breaking a mirror – 34%
5: Worried about the number 13 – 25%
6: Carrying a lucky charm – 24%

These are surprisingly high figures, and indicate that superstition is alive and well in modern day Britain. Indeed, amazingly, 86% of Brits said that they carried out at least one of these superstitious behaviours. Even scientists are not immune from superstition - for example, 15% of people with a science background said that they feared the number 13.

Click here to download the full report (PDF 84k)