We’ve all heard about lucky charms. You may have taken one along to a job interview, onto the sports pitch, or into the exam room. If you’ve ever been a bride, you’ll know all about four very specific ones.

They are buried at the bottoms of handbags, deep in pockets, hung from key rings, displayed on chains around our necks, and dangling from the mirrors of our cars.

Lucky charms come in all shapes and sizes and a whole industry has grown up around them.

Catholic travellers and pilgrims have been protecting themselves with lucky St. Christopher medals for hundreds of years. Whilst in Asia, Buddha charms and statues have been thought of as lucky for even longer, and are especially lucky if you rub the Buddha’s belly.

Even Star Wars fans have taken to wearing lucky Jedi amulets that have, it’s claimed, been infused with the Force.

Charms Around The World

Throughout history, all types of animals have been considered to have luck-bringing properties.

The ancient Greeks were always happy to see a school of lucky dolphins in the Aegean, and the Egyptians wore scarab beetles as jewelry for lucky decoration.

Black cats crossing your path can either be lucky or unlucky, depending on where you come from in Britain. In China, dragonflies are considered lucky and a sign of “a good rice harvest.”

Some people believe that you should always salute a single magpie and you don’t want to step on a ladybird, as killing one will bring you bad luck or even disaster, particularly fire, at home.

Most of us will have spent an hour or two scouring the lawn for that elusive lucky four-leaf clover, each leaf representing an aspect of life—love, hope, happiness, and luck.

In China it’s bamboo that is considered to be a lucky plant and a gift of bamboo is often presented to brides on their wedding day.

We’ve Used Them Throughout History

In Norse folklore, both the acorn and the oak tree bring good fortune and Vikings would often carry an acorn or an oak twig to bring them luck in battle as they pillaged their way across Europe.

Many people carry a lucky coin, and who hasn’t tossed a penny into a wishing well, hoping that their wish will come true?

Both the British and Americans believe that finding a penny brings luck—”See a penny, pick it up, and all day long you’ll have good luck.” Coin-associated luck is particularly strong in Asiatic countries, where lucky coins are minted by the million.

It was once customary to hide a lucky sixpence in your Christmas pudding, but these days, health and safety are the name of the game.

A horseshoe is believed to bring good fortune when hung up on the wall or above a doorway, although there’s some debate on which way up you should hang it.

Admiral Lord Nelson tacked a horseshoe to the mainmast of his ship, and President Harry S Truman displayed one over the door of his office in the White House.

In fact good luck is everywhere if you just look for it – the wishbone of a chicken, a falling star, even a rabbit’s severed foot; anything can be a lucky charm if you believe that it can bring you good fortune.

From lucky colours, or lucky underwear to lucky habits, most of us have our own ingrained superstitious behaviours and good luck charms.

Lucky charms – it seems that a lot of people won’t leave the house without one; but what if they actually work as some researchers are claiming?

Do Lucky Charms Actually Work?

Lucky charms may not work through any mystical or magical means, but research indicates they can have a real, positive impact on performance due to psychological effects.

A key factor behind the effectiveness of lucky charms is the boost in self-confidence and decreased anxiety they provide to their users.

Once you increase one and decrease the other, it often leads to improved performance in tasks.

One study by psychologist Lysann Damisch and colleagues found that participants who believed they were using a “lucky” golf ball or had lucky charms with them performed significantly better in tasks than those who did not have these beliefs.

This improvement was not attributed to the charms themselves but to the increased self-confidence, higher personal goals, and longer persistence of those who believed in their charms’ power.

This phenomenon is supported by the placebo effect, in which the belief in the charm positively influences actions and attitudes.

So They Do Work!

Basically, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, where expectations of success lead to behaviours that make success more likely​​​.

Furthermore, “confirmation bias” also plays a role. People are more likely to notice and remember events that confirm their beliefs about being lucky.

This, in turn, reinforces the effectiveness of lucky charms. Rituals like knocking on wood or carrying a four-leaf clover, may not change the outcome of events directly but can offer psychological comfort and contribute to perceived positive outcomes​​.

So while there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that lucky charms influence outcomes, the belief in and use of charms can lead to improved performance and positive outcomes.

Whether we carry a silver charm, keep a lucky stone in our pocket, nod at the moon, throw salt over our shoulder, or simply cross our fingers, there’s no doubt that we all want our share of Lady Luck’s attention and will try most anything to get it.

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