Is 13 really that unlucky?

The number 13 has been known for centuries to be “unlucky” but why? How can a number be attached to so much superstition and meaning. Several buildings either don’t have a 13th floor or 13th room. Some people even go the distance of not traveling on the 13th day or hosting important events on this day because of the fear that something will go wrong. There are several reasons why people believe that 13 is unlucky, stemming from religion to science. Those who are very religious may associate 13 to the 13th individual who came to the last supper. Judas was the 13th person and the person who went against Jesus. The number 12 has much significance in our everyday life. There are 12 months in a year, the hours in a day are easily divisible by 12, 12 inches in a foot, 12 days of Christmas, the list goes on and on. The number 13 is the imperfect number that falls behind the “perfect” number. Most people who believe this superstition grew up around other people who believe it. By hearing the message and association between bad luck and 13 peoples superstition develop even farther. The beliefs are cemented by occasional events that take place on the 13th day that are less than fortunate. Individuals who experience the most traumatic experiences or bad luck might even develop Triskaidekaphobia which is the fear of the number 13. Like many other phobias this in turn can lead to anxiety and other psychological effects. Depending on why someone believes 13 is bad luck, this superstition could date all the way back to the 1890s.

There are certain events that occurred that may contribute to the belief in this superstition. For example, the Apollo 13 was a space mission that was supposed to land on the moon. On April 13, 1970 there was an explosion that halted the mission and they had to return back to Earth. There may have been people following this mission with a preconceived idea that this mission was going to fail simply because of the mission number. A more specific unfortunate event that occurred was in England. There was a 13th year old teenager who was struck by lighting on Friday the 13th. He was said to been struck at 13:13. Fortunately, he was able to make a full recovery. Things like these happen and people feel no reason to believe that the number 13 is not bad luck. So they avoid it at all cost and become afraid of it. However, 13 is just a number and these events most likely would have happened regardless. It was just a coincidence.

An obvious cognitive contribution to this belief system are patterns. In our brain, it’s a lot easier to assign things to each other when we see patterns or sequences that frequently occur. We, as humans, evolved through symbols and its in our nature to use those associations in our everyday life. It strengthens when we connect with other people who believe and see the same patterns. They aren’t necessarily misinformed but are forming connections in places that weren’t meant to be.

The most notable influencer to the 13th belief is the media. The media uses those outlets to their advantage. For example, the Friday the 13th movie series with the killer main character, Jason. They have made over 10 movies and millions of dollars off of a fear that they took to the next level. Even though people may believe this superstition on their own there are groups of people that also believe that have a bigger impact on society. Some hotels, airports, and hospitals don’t have 13th floors. For a hospital to not have a 13th floor someone of higher power must also believe that 13 comes with bad luck which would make my belief even stronger.

The belief that the number 13 is bad luck or an unlucky number is essentially a superstition. Superstitions thrive on confirmation bias. Once you have a belief and your mind is set on this idea its hard to change your mind. Its even harder because subconsciously we look for evidence and memories that support them rather than those that refute them. Days that bad things happen on will just be unfortunate times but if something was to happen on the 13th day its because of the number 13. People with strong believes would most likely say that if it wasn’t for the association with 13 the bad thing wouldn’t of happened at all.



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