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Knocking On Wood Really Brings Good Luck, Study

Update Date: Oct 01, 2013 02:53 PM EDT

Knocking on wood may actually bring good luck. New research reveals that common superstitious practices like looking on wood, spitting or throwing salt may actually "reverse" perceived bad fortune.

Some people believe that negative outcomes are especially likely after a jinx. For instance is some says, " No one I know has ever broken a bone," it often feels like a close friend will soon suffer broken bones.

However, the latest study revealed that some people's elevated concerns after tempting fate could be eliminated if they engage in rituals to undo that bad luck.

"Our findings suggest that not all actions to undo a jinx are equally effective. Instead, we find that avoidant actions that exert force away from one's representation of self are especially effective for reducing the anticipated negative consequences following a jinx," Jane Risen, associate professor of behavioral science at Chicago Booth School of Business, said in a news release.

"Engaging in an avoidant action seems to create the sense that the bad luck is being pushed away," Risen added.

Researchers conducted five different experiments in which participants tempted fate and then engaged in an action that was avoidant. Avoidant actions included those that were superstitious like knocking on wood or non-superstitious like throwing a ball.

The findings revealed that people who knocked down on wood or threw a ball believed that a jinxed negative outcome was less likely than participants who knocked up or held a ball. Furthermore, participants who engaged in avoidant actions had a less vivid mental image of the negative event compared to those who engaged in other actions.

The findings are published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology.  

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