Superstitious behavior in sport: A literature review


  • Athlete;
  • magic;
  • paranormal;
  • placebo;
  • ritual

The objective of this first literature review, in this area, is to unveil the current status of knowledge on superstition in sport. Its outcome reveals that superstitious behaviors vary with the type of sport, athletic level, as well as athletic role. In agreement with past theories, they increase with the level of challenge, as reflected by the importance of the competition, as well as with the level of uncertainty. Cultural factors, in conjunction with the education level, as well as gender, have a strong influence on superstitious behaviors in sports. Based on current thoughts, religiosity and superstition are different psychological constructs used as psychological aids by several athletes. Personality factors appear to mediate the manifestation of the behavior. Elite athletes are clearly more superstitious than non-elite athletes, An interaction between athletic skill and task-difficulty emerges to be another strong predictor of superstition in sport. It is evident that a set of complex personal and situational factors interact in the manifestation of superstitious behavior in sport that is used for the regulation of emotions in a quest for optimal performance. It is concluded that the objective benefits (i.e., success) of superstition in sport may be ascribed to the placebo effect that yields an increased sense of control and mental reassurance in unpredictable contest situations. 


Autor / Fonte:Zsuzsanna Dömötör, Roberto Ruíz-Barquín, Attila Szabo Scandinavian Journal of Psychology 2016, 57 (4): 368-82