Despite low winning odds, millions of people all over the world still participate in lotteries. Why is this the case? A psychological study from Nottingham Trent University explains.
It takes many years to win the lottery…
First of all, some interesting details about winning chances in the lottery. Imagine that you play with the exact same numbers twice a week. There are fourteen million possible combinations, which means that you only win once in every seven million (!) turns. The British economist Tim Harford has calculated that you need 67.000 years to win, and that a guaranteed win takes only 135.000 years. Mathematicians even say that guaranteed success for players who gamble twice a week will even take about 100.000 years! A player who randomly changes the numbers every week is never, ever assured of success.
Harford has some advice for you when it comes to gambling, although it’s ironic. Choose your own numbers, but don’t submit the form. As a result, you’ll win almost every week. And the fear of having the correct combination will give you lots of adrenaline!
People overestimate a positive outcome
The truth is: participating a lottery often makes you poorer than richer. Just take a look at the numbers above. Still, people love to take a gamble because they overestimate their chances of winning. This is the conclusion of psychologists working at Nottingham Trent University. People often overestimate a positive outcome, while they ignore negative outcomes. They think that if they win a nice amount of money one time, it will also happen next time. Sadly, this is not always the case.
More attention for winners
Another reason for people to keep playing in the lottery is the fact that lotteries pay extra attention to winners. The millions of people who lose are simply ignored or remain underexposed. Because of inspiring winner stories people, and you’re probably no exception, fantasize about what they’re going to with the money they hope to win. So they estimate their winning chances higher, which is known as the ‘availability bias’ among psychologists.
The gamblers fallacy and the entrapment effect
Interesting to discover is that many lottery participants think they can control the outcome of the lottery draw by choosing their own numbers. This is shown by the fact that 7 out 10 people always choose the exact same numbers. They think it’s possible to influence the lottery, which is not the case. Another misconception is that ‘chance is fair’. People think that lottery numbers have some sort of memory: if you participate a lot, you must win once. The name for this phenomenon is the ‘gamblers fallacy’ or the ‘gamblers illusion’. Last, but not least, there’s the so-called ‘entrapment effect’. Lottery participants keep investing because they’ve already spend so much on lottery tickets. If they stop now, they will lose everything, which feels even worse.