Illustration by Tanya Burr

Fifty percent of Americans admit to irrationally believing in supernatural forces. Are they on to something? Taking rituals to the extreme (think: obsessive hand-washing, lock-checking, or refusing to leave the house for fear of germs) can throw a wrench in health and happiness. But research shows that run-of-the-mill magical thinking can make us feel more in control and capable.

The Takeaway: Go ahead, take that rabbit’s foot to work (or repeat that mantra before your next game). Superstitious beliefs — in moderation —can boost our performance, even if it is all in our head.

I’m a Believer

Even the least religious people fall prey to magical thinking.

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