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Description: Are you a lucky person? Are there regular situations where you do or do not do things like buy a raffle ticket or get a job where you do or do not act based on your beliefs about how lucky you are? Such thoughts come up at least once and a while for most people but would you think of “luckiness” as something that psychologists could or should study? I don’t mean studying why people trust in the voodoo that is luck, but rather why it might be that some people actually seem to be (or might really be) luckier than others. Put aside your cynical thoughts that luck is in the same category and fate or magic and as such beyond scientific psychological inquiry and think about it a bit. What sorts of things might be true of people or what might they be doing (perhaps not entirely consciously or on purpose) that makes them luckier than the rest of us. After you have pondered that question, read the article linked below to see what some psychological researchers have done in this area.

Source: The Key to Good Luck is an Open Mind. Theresa Iafolla, Nautilus.

Date: November 24, 2018

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When I get questions in my introductory psychology classes about the veracity of things like mindreading, future telling, fortune telling, or telepathic connections and other paranormal phenomena I try to make clear that while I may not be able to talk about research data that directly confirms the behaviour or experience in question I am only prepared to question the explanation offered and not the fact that something VERY interesting might be going on. Look what the idea of mirror neurons could do for our thoughts about mind reading as but one example of news ways to look at paranormal phenomena that can be as amazing as believing in magic, mind reading, or telepathic connections. There is still a LOT of psychological research, thinking, and theorizing to be done. So, maybe we should all go to “luck school” and put ourselves in a position to find those $20 bills that psychological researchers leave lying around (though how any of that might apply to buying lottery tickets is still a complete mystery to me).

Questions for Discussion:

  1. What is luck?
  2. Why might some people be luckier than others (or unluckier than others)?
  3. Are there limits to the sorts of luckiness that we might study from a Psychological perspective (be careful how you answer this one)?

References (Read Further):

Wiseman, R., & Watt, C. (2004). Measuring superstitious belief: Why lucky charms matter. Personality and individual differences, 37(8), 1533-1541.

Chotai, J., & Wiseman, R. (2005). Born lucky? The relationship between feeling lucky and month of birth. Personality and Individual Differences, 39(8), 1451-1460.

Wiseman, R. (2003). UK superstition survey. Psychology Department, University of Hertfordshire (Publication no. http://www. richardwiseman. com/resources/superstition_report).

Wohl, M. J., & Enzle, M. E. (2003). The effects of near wins and near losses on self-perceived personal luck and subsequent gambling behavior. Journal of experimental social psychology, 39(2), 184-191.

Lackey, J. (2008). What luck is not. Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 86(2), 255-267.

Xu, A. J., Zwick, R., & Schwarz, N. (2012). Washing away your (good or bad) luck: Physical cleansing affects risk-taking behavior. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 141(1), 26.