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Surprising Science

How Talismans Work

Researchers say talismans work by attaching a hope or wish to a physical object which induces the placebo effect. The objects demonstrate the power of the mind.

“It’s often assumed that unsophisticated people are most likely to be drawn to talismans, but intellectuals and corporate titans are drawn to them, too, says Dr. [Scott] Sandage, [an American history professor at Carnegie Mellon University]. Personal talismans often are most meaningful when they offer a sense of connection to a time, place or community. Dr. Sandage, 46, keeps a small box on his office desk, which contains an odd assortment of items, including a hose clamp, a chrome lug nut, some brown string, and a 13/64th drill bit. After his dad died last year at age 88, this box was discovered among the few belongings he’d brought with him when he moved into a nursing home.”


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