How Superstitions Influence Student Performance: A Psychological Exploration

Kate Chered
5 min readDec 24, 2023


Superstitions have been a part of human culture for centuries, often shaping behaviors in various aspects of life. In academics, particularly during examinations, students frequently turn to superstitions and folk beliefs to boost their chances of success. This article delves into several popular superstitions related to exam success, examining their psychological implications and how they may affect student performance.

What is the Role of Cleanliness Rituals in Exam Success Superstitions?

One prevalent belief is that maintaining a certain level of ‘uncleanliness’ before an exam, such as avoiding washing, shaving, or cutting hair, can somehow preserve knowledge or luck. From a psychological standpoint, this superstition might be linked to the concept of ritualistic behavior. Rituals, even superstitious ones, can provide a sense of control and reduce anxiety, which is crucial in high-pressure situations like exams. Avoiding grooming routines could symbolize a student’s complete focus and dedication to their studies, excluding all other concerns, including personal appearance.

This belief also ties into the concept of identity consistency in psychology. Students might feel that changing their appearance could disrupt their sense of self or the persona they have built as a ‘successful student.’ Thus, maintaining the same physical state is perceived as keeping their knowledge intact.

How Does Weather Influence Exam Performance Superstitions?

Another common superstition is that the weather on the day of the exam can predict its outcome. Sunny weather is believed to bring clarity and success, while rainy weather is thought to wash away knowledge and bring about poor performance. This belief could be rooted in the psychological impact of weather on mood and cognition. Studies have shown that sunny weather can improve mood and cognitive function, while gloomy weather can lead to decreased concentration and increased anxiety.

The superstition about weather also demonstrates the psychological phenomenon of external attribution, where individuals attribute their success or failure to external factors beyond their control. By believing that weather can significantly influence exam outcomes, students might unconsciously alleviate some of the pressure and anxiety associated with their performance, redirecting it to an uncontrollable external factor.

To What Extent Does Family Support Impact Exam Superstitions?

The role of family and close ones in exam success superstitions is also significant. Some students believe being scolded or harshly criticized by loved ones before an exam can bring good luck. This superstition might be linked to reverse psychology, where negative feedback is perceived as a motivator to prove others wrong and achieve success.

This belief also touches upon the psychological concept of intrinsic motivation, where individuals are driven by internal desires to overcome challenges and prove their capabilities, often in response to external doubts or negativity. The harsh words from loved ones might unconsciously reinforce a student’s determination and resilience, fueling their desire to succeed and subvert expectations.

What is the Psychological Basis Behind Clothing Superstitions for Exams?

The superstition surrounding wearing the same outfit for every exam, provided the first exam was successful, highlights the psychological reliance on ‘lucky charms’ or rituals. In this case, clothing becomes a tangible symbol of success and is believed to carry positive energy or luck from previous achievements. This belief exemplifies magical thinking, a psychological phenomenon where individuals attribute causal relationships between actions and events, even when no logical connection exists.

The consistency in clothing could also provide comfort and familiarity in an otherwise stressful situation, acting as a security blanket that eases anxiety and boosts confidence. This comfort can have a real, positive impact on performance, as reduced anxiety can improve concentration and recall abilities.


How Do Superstitions Psychologically Affect Students During Exams?

Superstitions can have a significant psychological impact on students during exams. They often serve as coping mechanisms to manage stress and anxiety. Engaging in superstitious practices can provide a sense of control in an unpredictable situation, such as an exam. This sense of control can reduce anxiety and increase confidence, potentially leading to better performance. However, reliance on superstitions can also be a double-edged sword; if students attribute their success solely to these beliefs, they may neglect adequate preparation or experience increased anxiety if unable to perform their superstitious rituals.

What Role Does Weather-Related Superstition Play in Exam Performance?

Weather-related superstitions, such as the belief that sunny weather leads to exam success while rainy weather causes failure, play a psychological role in shifting the focus of control externally. Students may feel less anxious about their performance by attributing part of their success or failure to the weather, an uncontrollable factor. While there is no scientific basis to support these beliefs, the psychological effect of weather on mood is well-documented. Sunny weather can improve mood and cognitive function, which might indirectly contribute to a more positive exam experience.

Where Does the Belief in Clothing Superstitions for Exams Originate?

The belief in clothing superstitions for exams likely originates from the human tendency towards magical thinking and the desire for control over uncertain outcomes. Wearing the same outfit worn during a successful exam is thought to ‘carry’ the luck or positive energy from that experience. This belief is a form of magical thinking where individuals erroneously perceive a causal connection between unrelated events. The comfort and familiarity of a specific outfit can also reduce anxiety, providing a psychological benefit regardless of any actual ‘luck’ the clothing might hold.

When Should Students Be Concerned About Their Reliance on Exam Superstitions?

Students should be concerned about their reliance on exam superstitions when they begin to overshadow the importance of actual study and preparation. If superstitions become a primary focus, causing significant anxiety or distraction, it might be time to reassess their role in the exam preparation. Additionally, if students find themselves unable to perform without these rituals or if the rituals start to interfere with their daily lives, it might indicate an unhealthy reliance on these beliefs.

To What Extent Can Family Support Impact Exam Outcomes Through Superstitions?

Family support can impact exam outcomes through superstitions to a considerable extent, mainly by influencing the student’s mindset and motivation. For instance, the superstition that criticism from family members brings good luck may psychologically motivate students to prove their capabilities, enhancing intrinsic motivation. However, the impact of such superstitions varies greatly among individuals. While some may find motivation in negative feedback, others might feel discouraged. The key is understanding the personal psychological responses to these superstitions and ensuring they align with healthy motivation and self-esteem.

Originally published at on December 24, 2023.