Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Science of Superstitions

Have you ever noticed that your teammate beside you always puts their left skate on before their right and always wears different colour stockings? Have you ever wondered why your teammate ties each of their cleats three times or must shoot at the net exactly 7 times during warm up? The answer to the whys of these questions is a matter of superstition. You’ll notice that most everyone has routines that they go through before competition and whether these are comfort behaviours, rituals or superstitions, it all stems from personal research you have been conducting your whole life. Each one of us has unconsciously performed studies of cause and effect that have been stored in our brains for reference as to what “works” and what doesn’t when it comes to success on the athletic field. Our brains have millions of these cause and effect relationships that we use on a daily basis to guide our behaviour. Our brains work through all these scenarios in order to predict what the next best course of action is. However, sometimes we get what we may consider a short-wire and the brain connects two things that may have no actual relationship to each other … and come up with what many term a superstition. Does wearing the same shirt at each race really make us play better? Does being the last player out of the dressing room really mean we’ll win? It can’t be proven, but if it gives us confidence to perform better that’s an advantage. Just don’t get so caught up in rituals and superstitions that they create nerves and pressure, put the emphasis on using them in a positive way to improve your performance.

For more information on the relationship between rituals, superstitions and your brain contact SIRC.

Reference:Silverstor, Trevor (2009) Superstition. Ultra-FIT 19(7), October 2009, p.30-32.

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