A post by Anna Ichino.

When I was at High School, I always used the same pen for written tests as I took notes with in my classes: after all, it already knew the right answers. When I cycle to work, I always make sure to get over the same ‘lucky crack’ in the road. At the supermarket, I always pick the second item in the row on a shelf. And I read my horoscope every Thursday. I feel slightly ashamed in reporting all these small rituals and superstitious practices that punctuate my everyday life; but I know I’m in good company. Students, athletes, politicians, musicians are all categories of people well-known for the propitiatory rituals and lucky charms they engage with. You may know for instance of David Beckham’s famous pre-game rituals, like stepping in the pitch with the right foot first (to ensure right shots), or wearing a brand-new football outfit at each match. And apparently Beckham’s fans are ready to pay quite some money to possess his ‘old’ outfits – as indeed people do for such things as Lady Diana’s wedding dress, or John Lennon’s hand-written lyrics. As these particular objects seem to mean a lot to us, by the way, so we tend to charge with special meanings some events in the lives of their owners: think of the sort of conspiracy theories circulating about Diana’s car-crash (which, obviously, ‘couldn’t be just an accident’). We also perform a variety of more traditional superstitious actions, like touching wood, crossing fingers, and so on.

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