Despite the fact that you are statistically more likely to be struck by lightning, several times over, than you are to win the lottery, that doesn’t stop millions of us from Ireland, and indeed worldwide, from purchasing our weekly lottery tickets with the hopes of striking it lucky and hitting the jackpot. Yes, we know we stand very little chance of winning the jackpot, but there is always a chance. Why then, if our odds of winning were so small, would we continue to hand over our hard-earned money every single week to buy a lotto ticket? Here are some scientific behavioural insights into the human psyche, which may help to shed some light onto why we are so obsessed with playing the lottery each week.
Studies have found that for some people, the lottery isn’t just seen as a wonderful bonus to enjoy if you win, but rather a way out. People build up the optimism in their heads so much, that they convince themselves that they are going to win the lottery and that it will be the end of their work-related worries, as well as their financial worries. Rather than thinking they could win the lottery, they convince themselves that they are going to win.
Due to the availability bias
If you’ve ever heard of this technique, it is utilized by casinos to help attract gamblers inside. They will promote local jackpot winners near the entrance, to help entice them inside. The idea is that people think that, if a local person can win, why can’t they? When people read the local newspaper, or even if they’re just talking to friends down at the local pub about a local lottery winner, this encourages them to play as it makes winning seem more realistic than reading about somebody in another country winning the jackpot.
Another reason people play the lottery is because they think superstitiously. Say for example, they have been playing for months and months and haven’t had a big win, the next rollover jackpot they are more likely to purchase more tickets. This is because they think that they are ‘due a win’ and that by buying more tickets their odds are exponentially better. They’re marginally better, but nothing to write home about.
“Coming close” to winning
Studies have found that when people choose numbers, which are not picked, but are close to being picked I.E choosing 4 but having 5 being picked, spurs them on as they think they came close to winning. In reality, it doesn’t matter whether it was a number 5, or a number 35, the fact of the matter is that their number was not drawn from the machine.
The ‘I can’t quit now’ mentality
According to experts, another key reason why people continue to play the lottery for years, decades even, is that they think they’re too invested and are determined to have something to show for all the money they spent on tickets over the years.