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If you are spooked by Friday the 13th, you're likely not alone, as we humans are a superstitious lot.
Many superstitions stem from the same human trait that causes us to believe in monsters and ghosts: When our brains can't explain something, we make stuff up. In fact, a 2010 study found that superstitions can sometimes work, because believing in something can improve performance on a task.
Here, then, are 13 of the most common superstitions.
Beginner's luckSlide 2 of 27
Usually grumbled by an expert who just lost a game to a novice, "beginner's luck" is the idea that newbies are unusually likely to win when they try out a sport, game or activity for the first time.
Beginners might come out ahead in some cases because the novice is less stressed out about winning. Too much anxiety, after all, can hamper performance. Or it could just be a statistical fluke, especially in chance-based gambling games.
Or, like many superstitions, a belief in beginner's luck might arise because of confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is a psychological phenomenon in which people are more likely to remember events that fit their worldview. If you believe you're going to win because you're a beginner, you're more likely to remember all the times you were right — and forget the times you ended up in last place.Slide 3 of 27
Find a penny, pick it up ...Slide 4 of 27
Find a penny, pick it up ...
And all day long, you'll have good luck. This little ditty may arise because finding money is lucky in and of itself. But it might also be a spin-off of another old rhyme, "See a pin, pick it up/ and all day long you'll have good luck/ See a pin, let it lay/ and your luck will pass away."Slide 5 of 27
Don't walk under that ladder!Slide 6 of 27
Don't walk under that ladder!
Frankly, this superstition is pretty practical. Who wants to be responsible for stumbling and knocking a carpenter off his perch? But one theory holds that this superstition arises from a Christian belief in the Holy Trinity: Since a ladder leaning against a wall forms a triangle, "breaking" that triangle was blasphemous.
Then again, another popular theory is that a fear of walking under a ladder has to do with its resemblance to a medieval gallows. We're sticking with the safety-first explanation for this one.Slide 7 of 27
Black cats crossing your pathSlide 8 of 27