Lucky Charms and Superstitions: Real or Placebo?

Long ago, superstitions began as a way for our ancestors to explain natural events. Before science came to explain how mirrors worked, people once believed that mirrors revealed part of their souls.

Nowadays, there are still many commonly held superstitions around the world such as the fear of Friday the 13th and seeing bird droppings falling on you as a sign of good luck. 

Many people hold personal superstitions as well. Baseball Hall of Famer Wade Boggs, once ate chicken before his baseball game and had a base hit that game. 

Boggs believed eating the chicken before the game enabled him to get a hit, and he subsequently ate chicken before every game he played for the rest of his career. 

Similarly, some PVHS athletes hold superstitions about their pre-game meals. Junior Adrien Santiago, a varsity basketball player, said, “Before every basketball game I eat pasta to help me play better.” 

Unlike some other superstitions, Santiago’s is scientifically plausible and may actually enhance endurance during exercise. 

Studies in 2006 showed that the consumption of simple carbohydrates within 60 minutes before exercise significantly increases the production of muscle glycogen and decreases muscle recovery time.  

On the contrary, many other superstitions are based on psychology instead of on scientific experimentation. Sophomore Brooks Mhyre, a varsity soccer player, wears a headband every game because he believes it helps him play better. 

“My hair used to get in my eyes, and the first time I wore the headband, we won and I scored a goal in that game. So ever since this happened, I have been wearing the headband.” 

The practicality of wearing a headband, in combination with the confidence and lucky feeling it brings, seems to aid Mhyre in his performance on the field. 

“When I wear the headband, I usually do [well] and if I don’t, my hair would get in my face, and I may not play as well.”  

Other students like junior Milo Daluiso do not believe that superstitions are real.  

“I don’t really believe in luck, but I believe that if you are well-grounded and prepared, things will go favorably for you,” Daluiso said, 

“However, placebos can be really powerful, and as a placebo effect, I guess [routines and objects] can be helpful. It doesn’t matter if an object has some supernatural power. If you give it that power [and confidence], then it will help you.”