Friday the 13th: Black Cats, Broken Mirrors…The Psychology of Superstition

By EmilyM

Today is Friday the 13th.

This statement alone may illicit many different reactions. Some may be thinking, “Yeah! The weekend is here,” while others worry “what unlucky thing will happen to me today?”  It all comes down to superstition and while some beliefs stand out as being extremely superstitious, other small ritualistic behaviors are often overlooked.

The idea that walking under a ladder, breaking a mirror, or having a black cat cross your path can bring  bad luck may sound ridiculous to some. But what about the little behaviors that are considered acceptable in society? Perhaps you don’t have to look any further than sports to see some classic examples of superstitious behavior.  How about the notorious playoff beard or the curse of the Bambino?

While these seem tame compared to many other superstitions, what makes some people fear Friday the 13th or carry on a completely ritualistic life just to ward off  “bad things” from happening?

Doctors seem to agree it all comes down to psychology. Studies have suggested that as many as 1 in 4 Americans are superstitious, meaning they resort to some form of ritualistic behavior in order to achieve seemingly unrelated desired result.

Certain psychological conditions also have this same underlying belief, so how is it possible to differentiate between a light-hearted belief and the sign of a deeper problem? These conditions often include anxiety disorders like obsessive compulsive disorder, general anxiety, certain eating disorders and, in children, certain cases of autism.

According to this article , it all comes down to monitoring your own thinking. Casually checking your horoscope, knocking on wood, or other relatively occasional superstitious behavior, usually fall under the category of harmless fun. This may change however if anxiety is attached to these behaviors, or experienced when these rituals are not carried out.

Bottom line: From a strictly scientific point, there is nothing that should make Friday the 13th  different than any other calendar day of the year. But, when this stigmatized day rolls around, if you are a little uneasy you are probably not alone. Just the simple societal implication and association of this day with bad luck can often be enough to trick the mind into fabricating or picking apart little bits of bad luck throughout the day.

On second thought, maybe Friday the 13th isn’t so unlucky at all! Take advantage of a special KwikMed offer on our Facebook page, just look for the coupon code.