Superstitions: Why you believe

"The baseball player who has this elaborate superstition about putting socks on in a certain order, he noted he didn't try to remember this; the mind just registered that when he put his socks on that particular day, something good happened. And therefore that becomes hard to ignore," said Gilovich.

Casey Daigle explained: "You go out and as a hitter you go one game, you go four for four with two doubles and a triple. Well, every baseball player I know almost is going to think in their head, What did I do during the day today that got me to go four for four? Well, if there's a couple of things that stick out, I bet the bank account they're going to do it tomorrow."

That's an even safer bet when things are tense.

And without nervousness, there might be no superstitions at all.

Jennifer Whitson at the University of Texas in Austin says superstitions grow out of our need to take charge of situations, and to reduce anxiety: "If you're just a more anxious person, you are sort of set up to be a little bit more superstitious. You just have a lot more ambient anxiety.

"We become very anxious when we lack control. And one of the ways if we can't regain it objectively is to try and regain it perceptually. Maybe I can't actually keep something bad from happening to me. But if I knock on wood, then I've done something. Right? I've taken action. And that can help someone feel less anxious as a result."

When anxiety goes down, performance goes up. That's when superstitions just may work.

In a new study, researchers gave golf balls to two groups of people: One group was told they had 'lucky" golf balls, the other was not.

Guess what: Those with the "lucky" golf balls were 35 percent more likely to make their putts.

So maybe Jennie Finch and Casey Daigle were onto something?

When asked who between the two of them was more superstitious, Jennie said Casey ,"for sure."

"I'd, I, I would say me," said Casey. "I was ridiculous."

No need to feel ashamed. It's the season for such things - and even the most scientific among us have moments of weakness.

Jennifer Whitson admits, "I will occasionally knock on wood, even as I tell myself this is not going to do anything."

And Stuart Vyse? "Well, I'm not a superstitious person at all. But I was once on a flight coming home from a conference and it was a very turbulent flight. And I don't handle turbulence well. I don't like it at all.

"And a colleague was sitting next to me and he turned to me and said, 'Stewart, did you notice that we're sitting in the 13th row?' I mean, for a moment there I felt a little anxious. My heart rate went up.

"And then I realized, 'Well, wait a second - if the plane goes down ALL the rows are going down, not just the 13th row!'" Vyse laughed. "But I think it shows that we're all vulnerable to it."

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