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Pushing Bad Luck Away Breaks a Jinx

Comstock/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- Hopefully, you’ll get through the day without tripping on a crack in the sidewalk -- knock on wood.

And if you’re like a lot of superstitious people in the Western culture, you might actually knock on wood to break the spell of a possible jinx.

As goofy as that might sound, researchers at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business say that practices like knocking on wood or tossing salt over the shoulder actually help convince people that they can undo a jinx such as when someone says, “I’ve never broken a bone in my life.”

Now, the trick is taking part in “avoidant actions that exert force away from one's representation of self,” according to Chicago Booth researcher Jane Risen. In other words, it just involves pushing bad luck away from yourself. 

Risen and her team conducted no less than five experiments to test the theory and in all cases, people who engage in these avoidant actions were more certain that they undid the effects of a potential jinx.

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