Of Black Cats & Jinxes – The world’s top 10 superstitions

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The researcher in me scoffs at the idea of superstitions. I deal with hard data, to which I apply complex statistical formulas. And everything is calculated using a super scientific program, not potions and a magic wand. If that’s not enough, I have a black cat at home who has crossed my path several times – even walked all over me to find the perfect napping spot – and it hasn’t been a problem.

Yet, I still find myself knocking on wood, avoiding ladders, and sheepishly throwing salt over my shoulder when I knock over the shaker. I hate it when people send me chain letters, and just last week when I went to see a concert with my sister-in-law, I insisted on trading seats with her because I refused to sit in number 13. Am I aware that my nutty and obsessive counter-curse behavior is ridiculous? Absolutely. Does it mean I’m going to stop doing it? Um, no. And before you poke fun at me, know this: I am not alone.

Here are the top ten superstitions that people believe in, based on data from 14,958 people from all over the world who took our Paranormal Beliefs Test:

# 10 Stepping on cracks: One in four people surveyed believe the old nursery rhyme that stepping on a crack in the sidewalk could result in an injury to themselves or to their mother.

  • Ethnicity differences: Among the seven ethnic groups surveyed, this superstitious belief was strongest among Jewish people at 39%, and lowest among Blacks at 17%.
  • Gender differences: 25% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 20% of men.
  • Age differences: This belief was highest among younger generations at 25% but then decreased after the age of 40 to 19%.

#9 Black cats: One in four people believe that it is bad luck for a black cat to cross their path.

  • Ethnicity differences: This superstitious belief was strongest among Asians at 34%, and lowest among Caucasians at 25%.
  • Gender differences: 30% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 21% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition was highest among younger age groups at 30% and then decreased with age to 21%.

#8 Number 13: One in four people surveyed believe that number 13 is bad luck.

  • Ethnicity differences: This superstitious belief was strongest among Asians at 33%, and lowest among Blacks and Caucasians at 26%.
  • Gender differences: 31% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 21% of men.
  • Age differences: This belief decreases with age from 33% for people under 18 to 25% for those who are over 40.

#7 Opening an umbrella inside: One in four people refuse to open an umbrella indoors because they believe it is bad luck.

  • Ethnicity differences: This superstitious belief was strongest among Native Americans at 37%, and lowest among Asians at 23%.
  • Gender differences: 34% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 17% of men.
  • Age differences: This belief decreases with age from 31% for people under 18 to 26% for those who are over 40.

#6 Spilled salt: If they spill salt, every fourth person throws a pinch of it over the left shoulder to counter the evil associated with this superstition.

  • Ethnicity differences: This belief was strongest among Native Americans at 43%, and lowest among Asians at 21%.
  • Gender differences: 35% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 19% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition ranges from 28% to 32% among age groups, but decreased slightly with age.

#5 Broken mirror: Breaking a mirror is still considered bad luck for a third of people surveyed.

  • Ethnicity differences: Belief in this superstition was strongest among Jewish people and Native Americans at 36%, and lowest among Middle Easterners at 25%.
  • Gender differences: 38% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 20% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition decreases with age from 35% (under 18) to 27% (over 40).

#4 Egyptian tombs: Nearly half of the people surveyed believe that a curse awaits anyone who disturbs an ancient Egyptian tomb.

  • Ethnicity differences: Belief in this superstition was strongest among Middle Easterners at 55%, and lowest among Blacks at 45%.
  • Gender differences: 53% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 38% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition decreases with age from 51% (under 18) to 44% (over 40).

#3 Number 7: Unlike the negativity surrounding number 13, more than half of the people believe that 7 is a very auspicious number.

  • Ethnicity differences: Belief in this superstition was strongest among Native Americans at 62%, and lowest among Middle Easterners at 51%.
  • Gender differences: 58% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 46% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition varied with age. It was highest among the youngest and older age groups at 56% and 55% respectively, and lowest among 18 to 24 year olds (51%).

#2 Jinxes: In order to avoid “jinxing” themselves, every second person surveyed refuses to tempt fate by discussing a future event or outcome before it happens.

  • Ethnicity differences: Belief in this superstition was strongest among Native Americans at 61%, and lowest among Asians at 54%.
  • Gender differences: 61% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 44% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition varied with age, but was highest among 25 to 29 year olds at 59% and lowest among people 40 and older (49%).

#1 Negativity: More than just a passing “new age” fad, more than half of the people surveyed believe that thinking negative thoughts can cause bad things to happen.

  • Ethnicity differences: Belief in this superstition was strongest among Native Americans at 67%, and lowest among Caucasians at 55%.
  • Gender differences: 62% of women believe in this superstition, compared to 49% of men.
  • Age differences: Belief in this superstition once again varied with age, but was highest among 25 to 29 year olds at 61% and lowest among people 40 and older (54%).

One particularly interesting pattern we discovered relates to education level. While superstitious belief steadily decreased as people attained higher levels of education, we noticed a slight but noticeable increase among those who have a PhD. Essentially, for six of the top ten superstitions (black cats, number 13, opening umbrellas indoors, spilling salt, breaking a mirror, ancient Egyptian curses), belief in them was actually higher among Ph.D. holders than those with a Master’s or a Bachelor’s degree…

…which means I’m in good company.

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Insightfully yours,

Queen D