Happy Friday the 13th

Try not to spill the salt – today is the first Friday the 13th of the new year.

If you’re like 53 percent of Americans, you give in to superstition every once in a while. Even Nobe Prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr wasn’t immune.

In fact, anthropologists note that among every culture, superstition and belief in magic are “so frequent and so widespread that we should ask ourselves if we are not confronted with a permanent and universal form of thought.”

While pure logic tells us that your lucky socks don’t actually carry magical properties, science tells us why we might think they do.

From an evolutionary standpoint, superstitious behavior may have helped cement social bonds, which are instrumental in securing resources and protection from individuals who might otherwise be competitors.

The superstitions themselves likely arose from the desire to achieve greater control, according to professor of psychology, Stuart Vyse. “When something important is at stake yet the outcome is uncertain, then superstitions are likely to be used to fill the gap and make us feel more confident.”

So if a certain action – say, covering oneself in animal skin – yielded better hunting outcomes for early humans due to the reasonable fact that prey may not sense presence of a predator, the hunters might expand the garnet’s use to other rituals in hopes that it would confer a similarly beneficial effect.

In contemporary society, you’ll probably get the benefit of not risking a ladder falling on your head if you avoid walking under it.

Humans aren’t the only beings to display such behavior. Observational studies show that if pigeons happen to be executing a particular behavior when presented with food, they will engage in repetitive behavior with the “hope” that its continuation will result in more food.

While you may not want to go around breaking perfectly good mirrors for safety or economic reasons, it’s safe to say that even our most popular superstitions amount to naught.