Superstition boosts golfing performance

How can you make people better at sports? Tell them they’re using equipment that previously belonged to a professional athlete. No, really. A new study finds that golfers significantly improved their putting ability when they believed the putter they were using belonged to a celebrity golfer.

The experiment didn’t show why this happened. It could have been a placebo effect, whereby something works because you think it’s going to, or the golfers might have done well because they were given more confidence in their putting skills.

In sports, confidence is a big deal. Generally, when people are more confident in their ability to perform a skill, they do better. If someone has confidence in a particular putter’s ability to help them perform that might bolster their own confidence.

That confidence could come from a belief in “contagion,” the idea that an object somehow absorbs the qualities of its previous owner. Learn more here.

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