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why do people play the lottery

The Psychology Of Lotteries

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Why do people play the lottery? On the one hand, the answer is obvious enough: We’re happy to spend $3 for approximately 15 seconds of irrational hope, for the pleasure of thinking about what might happen if we’d suddenly won millions of dollars. While most players know they won’t win – the odds are a joke – the latex coated ticket is a cheap permission to daydream, to think about the possibility of a better life.

Not surprisingly, those without lots of money are more interested in such escapist pleasures. As I note in my recent Wired article on the statistician Mohan Srivastava, state lotteries have become a deeply regressive tax. On average, households that make less than $12,400 a year spend 5 percent of their income on lotteries.

Of course, this makes no rational sense: People without lots of money should be the least willing to squander their hard-earned cash on games of chance. (Lotteries have such terrible odds that they make slot machines look good.) However, a 2008 paper by a team of Carnegie-Mellon behavioral economists – Emily Haisley, Romel Mostafa and George Loewenstein – helps explain why poor people are so much more likely to buy tickets. The problem, it turns out, is feeling poor:

In two experiments conducted with low-income participants, we examine how implicit comparisons with other income classes increase low-income individuals’ desire to play the lottery. In Experiment 1, participants were more likely to purchase lottery tickets when they were primed to perceive that their own income was low relative to an implicit standard. In Experiment 2, participants purchased more tickets when they considered situations in which rich people or poor people receive advantages, implicitly highlighting the fact that everyone has an equal chance of winning the lottery.

The study neatly illuminates the positive feedback loop of government-run lotteries. The games naturally appeal to poor people, which causes them to spend disproportionate amounts of their income on lotteries, which helps keep them poor, which keeps them buying tickets. Shortly after this study came out, I emailed with Loewenstein about its larger significance:

LEHRER: Have these experiments changed how you feel about the lottery? Would you advocate any changes to the way the lottery system is run?

LOEWENSTEIN: Clearly there is a demand for playing the lottery, and people seem to get something out of it; otherwise they wouldn’t keep playing. But it is well established that low income people spend a higher percentage of their income on the lottery than other income groups, so the lottery ends up taxing the poor at a higher rate when it makes much more sense to tax the rich at a higher rate.

The finding from our first study, that when you make people feel poor they play more, is especially sad since playing the lottery is on average a massively losing proposition. The propensity of low income individuals to play the lottery has the perverse effect of exacerbating their poverty. Although there are no easy solutions to the problem, one obvious one would be to cease marketing and advertising that targets the poor. It probably makes sense for the state to sell lottery tickets, because otherwise they will be sold by organized crime. However, does it really make sense for the state to be inducing, through advertising, poor people to play who wouldn’t play in the absence of such inducement?

Similarly, states could promote and offer more games that appeal to wealthier players, such as Powerball, and not those popular with poorer players, such as instant scratch-off tickets. Another obvious solution, though one that is even less likely to be implemented, would be for the state to increase the payout on the tickets, and perhaps to increase the number of moderate size prizes.

Finally, a third option would be for financial institutions to issue investment instruments that have lottery-like qualities (for example, offered in small amounts, available at many convenient points of purchase, provide a small chance of a large upside) but offer a positive rate of return, providing the pleasure of playing the lottery without the steep cost. In many other countries “prize bonds” or other savings instruments are available that pay lottery winnings in place of, or in addition to, regular interest. Regulations in the United States have stymied the development of such offerings.

Why do people play the lottery? On the one hand, the answer is obvious enough: We’re happy to spend $3 for approximately 15 seconds of irrational hope, for the pleasure of thinking about what might happen if we’d suddenly won millions of dollars. While most players know they won’t win – the odds are a […]

Why do people play lottery?

You are probably not hearing about the lottery for the first time. Every other day, you see advertisements on your TV for various lottery games and the massive amount of money at stake. Other times, you have read about lucky jackpot winners claiming thousands of dollars in winning. And out of curiosity, you may find yourself trying to understand the entire logic behind playing the lottery.

Interestingly, there is no universal logic behind playing the lottery. Lottery players engage in it for various reasons. These reasons are mostly subjective, and in most cases, a player can have more than a reason for playing the lottery. But one thing is clear – lottery players have a valid reason for playing this game of luck.

So, to answer this question of why people play the lottery, we have identified what drives people to join the game of chance to win the jackpot. These revelations promise to be exciting, so read on!

Reason #1 – People want to win the lottery jackpot!
This is first on the list for the obvious reason – it is the most important logic. Most people play the lottery because they want to win the jackpot. And how can you hit the jackpot without playing the lottery? It becomes more relatable when you learn the crazy cash prizes awarded as lotto jackpots.

For instance, an average lotto’s jackpot can range from hundreds of thousands to millions, depending on how big it is. And you can become the lucky winner with just a single lottery ticket.

Yes, it is that simple.

Reason #2 – Playing the lottery is fun
A good number of lottery players will tell you they do so because they enjoy it. The ‘enjoyment’ here simply refers to the adrenaline rush that comes with playing the game and potentially winning. Lotto, for such players, is an exciting social activity. Picking up a lottery ticket and choosing your lucky numbers and waiting for the draws – these activities are all enjoyable.

The peak, however, is during the draws. Watching the lotto draws live and check your ticket for a possible match is a rare and fun feeling.

Reason #3 – Lottery can be life-changing
Yes, winning the lottery jackpot is probably the best feeling ever. But have you ever imagined what you could do with the money? The truth is a lottery jackpot can change the winner’s life forever. Pocketing hundreds of thousands without literally investing anything can be a life-defining moment for anyone.

Money solves most problems. A lottery jackpot gives you so much money to solve almost all those problems. So, when people play the lottery, they are taking a life-changing chance on themselves.

Reason #4 – Playing the lotto can be a habit
People can consciously or unconsciously pick up lottery playing as a habit. For such players, they look forward to the next chance they will get to pick up their lucky numbers and try to win the jackpot. The quality of research and preparation that go into picking the right lottery and choosing the random numbers on your ticket is fantastic. Lottery players find themselves doing these effortlessly while enjoying every bit of their new habit.

It is the same way you unconsciously pick up habits like binge-watching movies, starting your day with a cup of coffee, or writing poetry in your free time. And come to think of it, a couple of lottery tickets per week is in no way a bad habit, is it? It is not considering what is at stake!

Reason #5 – Players want a solid retirement plan
With the dwindling economy and uncertain financial projections, no one can tell exactly what the future has in stock for them. So, rather than wait and leave everything to chance, lotto players build their future.

What better way to get your future secured than winning a lottery? The winnings can help anyone set up a failsafe and solid retirement plan or even do more than that.

Reason #6 – People want to fulfill dreams
We all have, at least, a life dream we want to fulfill so hard. For some, their dream is to win a jackpot. You may think it is weird, but the truth is, it is not. The feeling of accomplishment and the entire glam that comes with being the lucky winner of millions is enough to live for.

For others, the main dream is not to be a jackpot winner, but it is the all-important step towards fulfilling their dreams. Being a lotto winner will take you to places, make your life immensely better, boost your confidence, and, more importantly, make you rich.

Reason #7 – People are curious
Oh, you think we will never (re)mention curiosity? You were wrong! Interestingly, most lottery players are in it to satisfy their curiosity. It can be baffling to see people on TV presented with huge amounts of money won from ‘playing lotto.’

The only way out of such mystery is to experience how it works, first hand. For such people, they join the lotto playing club just to see how it works and be part of all the fun. However, such curiosity may develop into strong and genuine interests for such lotto players, and they become passionate about the game.

Finally…
Asides from the fun and the life-changing potentials associated with lotteries, it is one of the most convenient games of luck out there. Your location or distance is never a problem – you can play from anywhere. In most cases, you can play the lottery from the comfort of your home.

Talking about convenience, click here to find out more about Lotto Nigeria – one of the newest lotteries with mouth-watering jackpots.

You are probably not hearing about the lottery for the first time. Every other day, you see advertisements on your TV for various lottery games and the massive amount of money at stake. Other times, you have read about lucky jackpot winners claiming thousands of dollars in winning. And out of curiosity, you may find […] ]]>