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Last Updated: Friday, 13 June, 2003, 14:47 GMT 15:47 UK
Friday 13th - unlucky for some
Research suggests one in four believe Friday the 13th is unlucky
People who see themselves as unlucky should stay indoors on Friday the 13th, according to new research.

A study suggests those who consider themselves unlucky are more likely to believe in superstitions associated with bad luck, such as the number 13.

What is more, the researchers say, this belief alone can actually lead to "bad luck".

Psychologist Dr Richard Wiseman, who carried out the research, said: "Unlucky people tend to buy into negative superstitions, like having seven years bad luck after smashing a mirror.

"If you're one of these people, the fact that it's Friday the 13th could make you anxious and that will make you more likely to have accidents, drive less well, and perhaps find it harder to relate to other people.

"So your bad luck could be your own doing."

'Copping out'

More controversially, Dr Wiseman believes some people actually want to be unlucky because it helps them to avoid taking responsibility for their own failings.

"It's a way of copping out," he said.

Dr Wiseman, of the University of Hertfordshire, said a quarter of those surveyed thought the number 13 was unlucky.

A total of 4,000 people were asked if they considered themselves lucky or unlucky, and whether they engaged in any superstitious behaviour.

The survey found that "lucky" people tended to believe in superstitions designed to bring good luck, such as touching wood, crossing fingers and carrying a lucky charm.

Black cat
A black cat crossing your path is said to bring bad luck

"Unlucky" people were drawn to bad luck superstitions, such as breaking a mirror, walking under a ladder, or having anything to do with the number 13.

The results showed that 49% of lucky people regularly crossed their fingers compared with 30% of unlucky people.

In contrast, just 18% of lucky people became anxious if they broke a mirror, compared with 40% of unlucky people.

But the number 13 brought out the biggest difference between the lucky and unlucky, with more than half of people who considered themselves unlucky dreading the number, as opposed to just 22% of lucky people.

Crossing fingers

The most widely held superstitious belief was touching wood, which 86% said they did.

That was followed by crossing fingers (64%), not walking under ladders (49%), fear of breaking a mirror (34%), being worried about the number 13 (25%), and carrying a lucky charm (24%).

Dr Wiseman said: "These are surprisingly high figures, and indicate that superstition is alive and well in modern Britain.

"Indeed, amazingly, 86% of Brits said that they carried out at least one of these superstitious behaviours.

"Even scientists are not immune from superstition. For example, 15% of people with a background in science said that they feared the number 13."

Dr Wiseman has set up a website to continue his Luck Project, where anyone can contribute to the research.

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