"Did you just walk underneath that ladder?"
"Don't let a black cat cross your path."
"That was just beginner's luck."
Superstitions are a type of folklore that relies on mistruths or breeds excuses for explainable events. Defined as "a belief that certain events or things will bring good or bad luck," superstitions aren't anywhere within the realm of provable. Instead, they border on a sort of tribal wisdom.
Which superstitions have taken hold of our psyche and become more commonly accepted? We surveyed over 2,000 people to see the status of superstitions across the United States.
Just over 40 percent of respondents boldly described themselves as superstitious. On the flip side, close to 60 percent consider superstitions to be tall tales rather than textbook-worthy material.
Not all superstitions are created equal, however, as some were more widely held beliefs than others.
Knocking on wood, typically done to avoid jinxing a situation or inviting in bad luck after saying that something bad may happen, earned the top spot.Coming in last was the belief that a horseshoe above the doorway represents good luck and fortune. Perhaps the lack of blacksmiths and commuter horses played a part in this fable earning the last place.
Men & Women Both Want Luck
If you look at the difference between how men and women see superstitions, there are only a few points of separation. First and foremost, men believe in beginner's luck above any other superstition, and women think that knocking on wood is the most credible of the bunch. Male respondents said that seven is a lucky number, ranking among their top five superstitions.
Though it's easy to think of negative superstitions (the number 666 or breaking a mirror), most men and women focused on the idea of luck and positive thoughts. Picking up found pennies, wishing on stars, crossing fingers for luck, finding four-leaf clovers, and beginner's luck made the top 10 for both men and women.
Baby Boomers Are Scaredy-Cats
There were noticeable differences across three generations. Millennials believed in luck more than any other generation, rating both beginner's luck and crossing fingers highly.
There's no room for doom or gloom in their lifestyles, just the belief that the next hand life deals them could be a winner.
Generation Xers, the most superstitious generation by far, balanced positivity with negative outcomes, and some even mentioned the supernatural power of a wishbone. Baby Boomers are more skittish with the superstitions they believe in – you may want to avoid them on Friday the 13th. Conversely, they also are most likely to believe in 13 being an unlucky number.
50 States of Superstition
When we break it down by region, some areas in the U.S. are more likely to be skeptical of or embrace the idea of superstitions. Home to New Orleans and Voodoo in America, the South rated as the most superstitious of the bunch.
The Northeast came in a close second, perhaps due to its history with the Salem Witch Trials. And where are you least likely to find people hoarding a rabbit's foot or a lucky penny? The West; it was our least superstitious region in the United States.
Counting on the Stars
The South and West look to the stars for luck more than the Midwest or Northeast. Perhaps that's partially due to how easy it is to see the sky! With 80 percent of us living in urban areas, and the prevalence of artificial lights restricting us from the night sky's spectacle, wishing on a star is not necessarily a possibility.
The South and West also have a higher concentration of International Dark Sky Parks, such as Death Valley and Bryce Canyon, that are certified to provide the best possible experiences for spotting a shooting star. Suggestions for your wish are not included.
Luck, Skill, or a Bit of Both
With more than 40 percent of the Americans we surveyed believing in superstitions, they just might be as big a part of our national identity as apple pie, baseball, and obscenely large firework displays on the Fourth of July.
Perhaps it just feels good to believe that some force is pulling for you to strike it big. For that we say, indulge in those superstitions.
We surveyed over 2,000 people in the United States about their superstitions.
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