Medicine and magic
Thousands of people wear a lucky T shirt in exams, blow on dice before rolling them, and cross their fingers for good luck. Yet how many people believe that these little rituals can have a palpable effect on health? Clare Hughes and Chris French think that the inadvertent health effects of superstitions should not be overlooked
Superstition can trigger unusual and life threatening events. Researchers from Mid Downs Health Authority, Sussex, found that drivers are more than 50% more likely to have a road accident on Friday the 13th than on any other day.1 They discovered that despite a smaller volume of traffic on the M25, accident rates were significantly higher on this day: they recommend staying at home.
Some people are wildly superstitious: they believe in the evil eye, ouija board, palm reading, or demonic possession. Save your breath trying to convince them otherwise, as they will think you are either hopelessly ignorant and doomed or, under some evil influence, trying to lure them away from the truth.
Most peoples beliefs lie between the highly superstitious and hardcore rationality: they would be offended to be labelled superstitious but still touch wood when they mention something they do not want to happen.
Many psychological factors contribute