Superstition: Bad luck #13

The extraordinary belief I am interested in involves superstition called “Bad Luck”, especially the number 13 and conspiracy behind it. It is considered one of the more common superstitious beliefs that are found around the world and known as a synonym for “Bad Luck”. Research shows that 1 out of four people consider themselves superstitious. The interesting aspect about “Bad luck” is that it is so universal and anywhere you go you discover a new/different sign of bad luck. It is common to see people avoid the number 13 in and around elevators, hotels, airlines, etc.

There is a lot of controversy around the statistical proof to support this superstition. While some researchers state that, “No data exists, and will never exist, to confirm that the number 13 is an unlucky number”, there should not be a reason to think that any number is more unlucky than another. However, others published findings that indicates otherwise. As an example, they analyzed traffic flow and car accidents on a motorway during 5 months that the 13th fell on a friday during a 2 year long period. Comparing these data to data collected on other dates it showed that transport accidents “increased by as much as 52% percent”.

A cognitive contribution to this belief could be religious, which I will expand on later, but also the term called triskaidekaphobia, which is an irrational fear of  the number 13. Another reason the belief exist can be due to confirmation bias and self fulfilling prophecies. Confirmation bias is the tendency to ignore evidence that would disconfirm your belief and only focus on evidence that would ‘confirm’ their existing beliefs. Self fulfilling prophecy can be another factor while superstitious belief exists. It is a belief that tend to become true, because we already belief in it, which shapes our way of acting towards it and reinforces the belief to become true.

This extraordinary belief  about the unlucky number 13 can be traced back to biblical times.  Over time, there have been various reasons why people consider it an unlucky number, tracing back to Christianity. “Some believe this is unlucky because one of those thirteen, Judas Iscariot, was the betrayer of Jesus Christ. From the 1890s, a number of English language sources relate the “unluckythirteen to an idea that at the Last Supper, Judas, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, was the 13th to sit at the table.” It is likely that many Christians hold this extraordinary belief.

After reviewing the entire concepts and history of the extraordinary belief of number #13, it mostly seems that Heuristics such as Confirmation Bias and self-fulfilling prophecies play a role. It seems that many groups of people take an example from history where the number 13 may have been unlucky and use it to justify the belief as a whole.  


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12 thoughts on “Superstition: Bad luck #13

  1. I always wondered the origin of conspiracy and it is interesting to hear that it is religious. But besides that, I am curious if you or anyone knows why the 13th falling on a Friday makes for heightened superstition?

    • I believe I once read something about Friday the 13th being dedicated to a Norse goddess (possibly Freyja). However, our society was not particularly fond of powerful female figures so the church naturally regarded it as evil.

  2. I think the most amazing part about the whole bad luck 13 superstition is the ways that it is implemented. For example, I think its super fascinating that some of the biggest buildings in the world don’t have 13th floors just because they think it’s bad luck! Where is the weirdest place you’ve seen the bad luck 13 superstition applied?

  3. I just realized something I have been noticing in many blogs while reading this blog. In today’s world ghosts, extraordinary beliefs,, etc have become merely a way for people to make money. It just struck me that most of these beliefs have been turned into a movie or documentary of some sort. For example, we have slender man, mothman, there are so many movies out there that revolve around the superstition of the number 13. Do you guys think the movies take these incidents way out of proportion due to which people start believing these beliefs more.

  4. One other number that causes a lot of superstition is the number 4. Especially in Chinese culture. This is usually because it has the same pronunciation as the word for death in Chinese. This fact was very amusing to me, when I first came to know about this. Like the number 13, people in China try to avoid the number 4 completely. Some building and hotels don’t even have the fourth floor in them.

  5. My whole life I have grown up knowing and hearing that the number 13 is an unlucky number. Last winter though I went to Mexico for my fathers wedding, and while we were looking in the gift shop at jewelry I saw a ring with a bunch of lucky symbols on it. There was a four leaf clover, an elephant, an owl, and the number 13. Did you see anything in your research about the number 13 actually being seen as a lucky number in some cultures?

  6. Though I find superstitions odd and useless, I find myself enacting them (using the same pencil for exams, knocking on wood, etc.). I have even heard of people being extra cautious on Friday the 13th for some reason, I think it is a movie too? Though there may be published findings indicating the danger in the number 13, there is no evidence as to why this happens. Dangerous things could be more likely with the number 13 purely because people believe they are more likely and enact the self-fulfilling prophecy.

  7. I have never known that number 13 is a bad luck number and I even cannot remember I have used it. I think the bad luck number is a superstition which is different in different culture. The bad luck of number 13 may come from the Bible and it makes people try to avoid this number. In my country, the number 4 is the bad luck number because it pronounces like death. So when people choosing their house, they will try to avoid the fourth floor and the room number with the number 4. It’s only superstition, and if we can investigate other cultures, there must be a lot of numbers which is bad lack.

  8. Bad luck is a mental factor that potentially influence you especially for not confident person. It is like placebo effect that you would unconsciously guide yourself to a bad way if you believe you have a bad luck today. And confirmation bias also leads people for that.

  9. Giving certain number a good or bad connotation is very common superstition thing we all know. Although knowing there’s no evidence for the power of certain numbers, people would still choose to avoid the number. The most interesting part of this kind of superstition is the possibility that it would really influence people’s emotional state. Just like, if one see the number 13 repeatedly before a test. Would that really influence the person’s performance in the test?

  10. In most beliefs we don’t actually get much of experiment that are scientifically correct that create results like the highway one. However, it seems that the experiment wasn’t completely perfect since it seems that instead of checking on if 13 is unlucky, it should be checking how peoples behavior change through superstition when they realize its the 13th day. I believe this is why there were more car accidents because people were so focused on something bad happening rather than on safety. There was another blog post that talked about this and after I asked some of my co-workers if they had ever heard of this but they said they only ever heard of Friday the 13th being unlucky which is just a recent this introduced in this century so I wonder how this belief originated from and how it spread globally.

  11. The concept of General things, such as the number 13, being unlucky is extremely interesting because it shows how superstition and folklore, not to mention religious beliefs, can meld with everyday life and interactions. Is it more important to trace the origin of a superstition like around a number 13, or to understand how it is applied in today’s society? do people still fear the number 13 in reality? do people think twice about the number 13 in a serious and significant sense?

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