Do sports superstitions really work?
My column in today’s Globe and Mail is about sports superstitions — and in particular, about a great study by German researchers showing how well they work (e.g. handing someone a golf ball and telling them that it’s a “lucky ball” makes them hit 33% more putts). I wrote it while I was at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, which allowed me to ask athletes there about their superstitions, some of which appeared in this sidebar accompanying the story:
Athletic superstitions range from the simple to the ridiculous. Here are a few that were on display at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, which wrapped up last week:
David Mathie (lawn bowls): Always plays with the price tag on his right shoe.
Erin Marie Roth (lawn bowls): Carries a poker chip with her when playing internationally.
More related to this story
Catherine Dion (gymnastics): Always tightens her right grip before her left on the bars.
Then there are the major league superstitions:
Serena Williams (tennis): Doesn’t change socks during a tournament if she’s winning.
Bruce Gardiner (hockey): Dunked the blade of his stick in the Ottawa Senators locker-room toilet before games to end slumps.
Turk Wendell (baseball): Always chewed four pieces of black licorice while pitching, and brushed his teeth between each inning. Also never touched the baselines.
Jason Terry (basketball): Tries to sleep in a pair of uniform shorts belonging to next day’s opponents, wears five pairs of knee-high socks and eats chicken before every game.
Sources: Psychological Science 2010, mentalfloss.com