The Right Way To Knock On Wood
First, why knock on wood? Because despite cynical convictions that knocking on wood is a useless superstition, psychologists know that knocking on wood can give people with a sense of control that is helpful in many ways. But it has to be done properly. The Atlantic reports that the researchers studying the phenomenon had participants engage in a scripted conversation about scary things like car accidents and disease. Some participants had neutral responses to the talk, and some responded with comments like “I’m certain that everyone I know will be 100 percent safe.” The magazine reports that after the conversation, to “clear their thoughts,” participants either knocked down on a wooden table (away from themselves), knocked up (toward themselves), threw a ball, or held a ball. The researchers found that the participants were less likely to think they were jinxed if they knocked on wood or threw a ball. Wait, there’s more: the direction of the knocking also had an effect. The Atlantic reports that knocking toward oneself was actually worse than not knocking at all, whereas knocking away from oneself had the expected calming effect.