Amazingly, people keep playing the lottery despite the mountain of data showing that their chances of winning are vanishingly small. Some insights from the field of behavioural science that shed light on the motivations behind lottery play are as follows:
Overconfidence in One’s Ability to Influence Outcomes
Decision scientists disagree on whether or not the human brain is wired to calculate odds as low as those found in a lottery. The odds involved in purchasing a Powerball ticket are far beyond the realm of human experience because our brains evolved in an environment where we were never required to make such calculations.
Visualise yourself in possession of a paperclip. This is simple to picture in your mind. Picture a group of paper clips, say 5–10 in height. However, beyond that point, it becomes progressively harder to conceptualise. Imagine a stack of 1,000 paper clips. What do you see? 10,000? 100,000? When the odds are one in 200,000, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how long they are. The vast majority of people, however, are solely concerned with the single. So you’re saying there’s a chance? “, Jim Carey’s character said in Dumb and Dumber.
The Bandwagon Effect
This phenomenon, known as the “bandwagon effect,” occurs when individuals join in on something simply because it is trendy. Seeing others participate in an activity can make someone feel pressured to join in so they don’t feel left out and end up missing out on the fun. People who normally wouldn’t buy a Powerball ticket are influenced to give in by the fear of missing out. At such a low price, it’s tempting to buy a Powerball ticket without giving it much thought.
Due to availability bias, we tend to overestimate our chances of success. Seeing or hearing about recent winners increases our expectations of being a winner ourselves. This is a common strategy in casinos. Because of this, the names of recent jackpot winners are displayed prominently near the casino’s main entrance. Millions of people are always winners, yet we seldom hear about them. We hear nothing but about the few who made it big. Would it lead to fewer people buying lottery tickets if the names of the losers were published alongside those of the winners in the local papers?
The Gambler’s Fallacy and the Influence of Superstition
Buying four losing scratch-off tickets does not make you “due” to win on the fifth. Too many people think lottery tickets are connected, but they’re not. Casinos take advantage of this by recording the results of the previous 20 or so spins on roulette wheels. Does it follow that red is “hot” if it has won the majority of the last ten times the roulette wheel has been spun? Alternatively, could it be said that black is “due”? In actuality, both of these statements are false. There is no correlation between spins at all. Nothing is remembered by the wheel.
False Security and Narrow Escapes
If a player chooses 3, but the winning ticket is 5, they may feel like they “nearly won” and think, “Perhaps next time I’ll get lucky.” Because of this, the lottery player may feel as though they are coming closer to actually winning. When given the option between selecting their numbers and having the computer select them at random, most people prefer the former. If somebody’s birthday is January 11 and they choose the number 111, it doesn’t mean they were “so close” to receiving the lucky number 112 whenever it came out.
The Influence of Exaggerated Expectations and the Fallacy of Sufficient Control
Individuals are susceptible to a cognitive bias known as the overconfidence effect, which causes them to overestimate their chances of success relative to those of an objective observer. It complements the false sense of authority, which causes people to believe they have more say than they do in the unfolding of events. Sorry Super Bowl zealots, but it’s true: the very same effect that makes you think your good luck ritual will affect the game does. They believe their chances of winning the Powerball increase when they take an active role in selecting their numbers. Those who suffer from both of these irrational beliefs are more likely to think the lottery is in their favour, as they will feel like they have more say over their outcomes.
Many lottery players have been doing so for many years. They may be victorious occasionally but unsuccessful frequently. But I just can’t give up right now “they’re giving it some thought. “I’ve been at it for three decades! The accumulated cost of lottery wagers over the years is a factor in the game’s favour. Nobody walks right into a social snare. Individuals become trapped because the expenses, that were initially obscured, eventually appear to be too great for them to abandon ship. We all know the feeling of being on hold for an extended period and not wanting to end the call since there’s no way to get back the time lost.
It seems like a small price to pay for the chance to have your life completely altered if you win the lottery. One could rationalise their actions by saying things like, “I’m only spending a couple of rands, but then again, the money goes to schooling and aiding out older folks in society.” The justification for buying one lottery ticket per day is comparable to the justification for buying one pack of cigarettes per day. If the money invested required tens of thousands of rands up front with an extremely low probability of winning big in the following 30 or 40 years, very few individuals would sign up for such an investment. When you add up how much you’d have to spend, though, the deal suddenly seems less appealing.
To Sum Up, Lotteries Trigger an Occurrence of Human (Ir)rationality
As a result of these cognitive biases, buying a lottery ticket can be very tempting. Because if you have the chance to improve your life, what are a few bucks to spend? Lottery tickets don’t come cheap, but it’s essential to keep in mind that these prejudices don’t care who you are. They are just as likely to sway a decision with minor repercussions as they could cost your company millions. Be aware of the impact of these intangible psychological factors on your life. This knowledge probably won’t stop you from buying the next lottery ticket, but it could prevent you from making a bad strategic decision. Instead of wasting money buying lotto tickets every week, visit OnlineLotto’s website to try your hand at South Africa’s first free online lotto draw.