Prospect of war ‘making us more superstitious’

Daily Telegraph (England), Mar. 18, 2003
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

The prospect of war may have triggered a significant increase in superstitious rituals, according to a nationwide survey.

It revealed very high levels of superstition, even among those with a scientific background, with touching wood the most popular, followed by crossing fingers, avoiding ladders, not smashing mirrors, carrying a lucky charm and anxiety about the number 13.

Of those questioned, 77 per cent indicated that they were at least a little superstitious and/or carried out some form of superstitious behaviour, and 42 per cent said that they were very/somewhat superstitious.

Dr Richard Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, conducted the survey of more than 2,000 people, the first of its kind, as part of National Science Week (). Superstitious people tended to worry about life and have a strong need for control, he said. The Scots top the British superstition table and women are more superstitious than men.

The survey found evidence that the prospect of war in Iraq is fuelling superstition. Eighteen per cent of people felt more anxious over the past month when they carried out an action reputed to bring bad luck, such as walking under a ladder.

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