Theo Walcott probably had his fingers crossed this morning hoping that he’d be selected to play for England in the World Cup in South Africa next week. Unfortunately it didn’t seem to do him any good; he wasn’t chosen for the championships and will now have to watch his team mates on his TV at home, just like the rest of us. Sometimes, of course, people do actually cross their fingers and “hope”, but mostly we simply say it, safe in the “knowledge” that this superstition will have no real impact.
Wrong. New research on superstitious behaviour shows it does have a real effect. According to researchers from Germany, people who adopt superstitious practices tend to perform better than people who dismiss these ideas as “old wives tales”. Tiger Woods used to do very well, for instance, when he would only wear a red shirt on the last day of a tournament. Olympic athletes tie their laces in a particular order every time before a race. And actors are know to go through rituals in the wings and will never call Macbeth anything other than “the Scottish play”. It all sounds daft, but this new study shows there is some benefit in following superstitious behaviour.
Apparently when we adopt a superstitious practice we become more self confident, which in turn boosts performance. Superstitious behaviour also leads to increased perception of self-efficacy – not only do we feel more confident, but we actually think we are better at the task than we might have thought beforehand.
So, when you set about writing your blog do you go through some superstition-based ritual or do you sit there facing a blank screen wondering what on earth to write about? This new research suggests that if you adopt a superstitious practice – even crossing your fingers before you start writing – then your performance as a blogger will increase. If you want to write a better blog, simply adopting a ritual behaviour pattern before each posting could well turn you into the next blogging sensation.
There is no need, it seems, to actually believe that the superstition has any real effect. Research implies that it is the mere presence of superstitious behaviour that has the resulting boost to performance. So, how about rearranging the pencils on your desk to all point to the left before you write every post? Or what about only writing your blog once you have eaten half an apple? Or perhaps only blogging when you have removed one shoe?
Daft? Well not that silly when you compare it with only wearing a red shirt on particular days – and say what you like about Mr Woods, it didn’t seem to do his golfing performance any harm.
Sometimes the answer to improving your blog could lie outside the confines of the Internet itself…!
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+