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Four-leaf clover, rabbit’s foot, is there really science to superstition?

The likelihood of finding a four-leaf clover, or shamrock, is estimated one in 10,000.
The likelihood of finding a four-leaf clover, or shamrock, is estimated one in 10,000.

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Spilling salt and walking under a ladder are said to bring bad luck, while finding a four-leaf clover and carrying a rabbit’s foot somehow ensure good fortune.

During playoffs, we’ve all heard of the playoff beard and the lucky charm an athlete use to help secure the next win. Even the most rational of us are susceptible to superstition. 

What is the science of superstition? Is there a special ritual you go through before an important exam, say? Or something you wear to a job interview? What are some of your personal superstitions?

Here's what AirTalk listeners had to say:



Celina in Inglewood: "There's a superstititon in Hawaii that ancestors live in the stones in Hawai'i. I realize this isn't true but when I moved from Hawaii, I left my stones there  (I'm a massage therapist)."

Conrad in Santa Ana: "A friend of mine bought a magnetic bracelet for his son who plays basketball with my kid. I made fun,  but he says, "If he believe it works it will work." Which I thought was very interesting."

Gigi in Pasadena: "I was born on Dec. 13, my daughter was born on Jan. 13, and my only grandaughter was born on March 13, and she just celebrated her 23rd birthday this past Friday the 13th. I'm the antithesis to superstition, we've led great lives because of it."

Beth in Burbank: "Mercury retrograde is a HUGE one. In our family, if you take a trip on a plane or train you have to take your first step with your right foot first. If you don't you have to take a step back and do three clockwise spins and do it again, for safety."

Lawrence in Hollywood: "When I lived in New Mexico, people take their hats off and hold them upside down so that luck collects in it."

What are your personal superstitions? Tell us by posting in the comments below!


Matthew Hutson, science writer whose latest piece, “The Science of Superstition” appears in this month’s The Atlantic Monthly; author of the book, “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking” (Hudson Street Press; 2012)