Project

The psychology of luck

Goal: The overall aim of this work is to better understand psychological aspects of experiences we typically ascribe to 'luck' (or chance, fate, etc.). A current development of this work involves exploring the various links between positive psychology and 'luck' experiences. The aim is to better understand the relationship between psychological concepts such as gratitude, mindset, optimism, mindfulness, etc. and our experience of 'luck'. As part of this project, I am developing a 'Go Luck Yourself!' programme as an extension of Wiseman's 'Luck School' (Wiseman, R. [2004]. The Luck Factor. London: Random House.)

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Project log

Matthew David Smith
added 2 research items
This thesis reports a body of work that examines psychological, and parapsychological, factors associated with perceptions of luck and of being lucky. Although much psychological research has referred to luck, surprisingly little work has made a detailed examination of people's beliefs about luck and luckiness. A data base of 126 members of the public who perceived themselves as especially lucky or unlucky was compiled. Qualitative data based upon interviews with a sub-sample of this group (i) highlighted the different ways in which people might describe themselves as lucky or unlucky, (ii) identified contrasting beliefs about luck among the sample and, (iii) suggested several potential psychological mechanisms related to perceived luckiness. Postal questionnaire studies conducted primarily with members of this data base examined these potential psychological mechanisms in a quantitative way. Participants were classified as perceiving themselves as lucky or unlucky using a specially constructed Perceived Luckiness Questionnaire. 'Lucky' and 'unlucky' participants were then compared on a number of measures of attitudes and personality traits, and various psychological tasks. It was found that lucky participants scored higher than unlucky participants on measures of optimism and self-esteem whilst unlucky participants scored higher on measures of depression, anxiety, anger and fatigue. In addition, unlucky participants performed significantly worse than lucky participants on a probability judgements task. Partial evidence was also found to suggest a bias in memory for lucky events over unlucky events among lucky participants. However, subjective interpretation of events was not found to be an important factor in perceived luckiness. The relationship between perceived luckiness and expectations of success, actual success, and playing behaviour in the UK National Lottery were also examined. Perceived luckiness was found to be related to expectations of success but not to playing behaviour nor actual success. These findings are drawn together and their implications discussed, along with methodological and conceptual considerations, with a view to developing a psychology of luckiness.
Positive psychology interventions have been shown to have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing (see, for example, Bolier et al., 2013 for a review). These interventions may include, for example, gratitude journals, mindfulness practices, and cultivating optimism. However, to date there has been little research directly examining the impact of such interventions upon experiences that are often attributed to ‘luck’ (i.e., unplanned events that may often be perceived as being outside of one’s control). One exception is Wiseman’s (2004) ‘luck school’, in which a small number of volunteers were briefed in regards to four ‘luck factor’ principles, asked to build these into their daily lives over a period of one month, and report if and how these principles impacted on their experiences of ‘luck’. The present study builds upon Wiseman’s initial exploration of ‘luck school’ by (a) drawing explicitly on positive psychology research; (b) extending the period to a 3-month period; and (c) including additional psychological measures. Sixty six participants were recruited to take part in a programme of positive psychology interventions consisting of six sessions over a 12-week period, with a single session once per fortnight. Each session lasted approximately 30 minutes and focused on a key aspect of the positive psychology and how this might impact upon experiences ‘luck’ (e.g. expressing gratitude; cultivating optimism; raising awareness of opportunities; etc.). Online participation was also made possible by posting a recording of the session on a virtual learning environment (Blackboard™). Measures of perceived luckiness, optimism, positive and negative affect, and state anxiety were administered at the beginning and end of the 12-week period via PsychData (an online tool for administering surveys). Participants were also asked to maintain a regular ‘luck journal’ in which they recorded their thoughts about, and experiences of, ‘luck’ during the 12 weeks, and an open-ended questionnaire at the end of the period. Findings presented at the conference will include comparisons of pre- and post-intervention as well as a thematic analysis of participants’ experiences of taking part in the programme and their perceptions of how it might have impacted upon their experiences of ‘luck’. References Bolier, L., Haverman, M., Westerhof, G. J., Riper, H., Smith, F, & Bohlmeijer, E. (2013). Positive psychology interventions: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. BMC Public Health, 13: 119. [www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2458/13/119] Wiseman, R. (2004). The Luck Factor. London: Arrow Books.
Matthew David Smith
added 3 research items
This paper briefly reviews previous research on luck and psi, and presents a study on luckiness, competition, and performance on a psi task from an ongoing research project into the psychology and parapsychology of luck and luckiness. Participants were classified as either lucky, unlucky, or uncertain, according to their responses on a Luckiness Questionnaire. Participants were then asked to guess the outcomes of a series of pseudo-RNG based coin-flips in either a competitive or non-competitive situation. Prior to completing this task, each subject was asked to rate how well they thought they would do at the task. It was found that lucky participants performed no better than unlucky participants on the psi task and gave nonsignificantly higher ratings of predicted psi performance. Participants in the competitive condition did not perform significantly better on the psi task than participants in the non-competitive condition. Most notably, however, a significant positive correlation was found between predicted psi performance and actual psi performance. The implications of these findings are discussed, as are suggested directions for future research.
There has been a great deal of interest in the concept of luck in the recent psychological and philosophical literature. In philosophy, this interest has tended to focus not upon luck simpliciter but rather upon the role that luck plays in ethical and epistemological debates concerning (respectively) moral and epistemic luck. In psychology, in contrast, a number of studies have explicitly examined our everyday conceptions of luck and the manner in which these conceptions influence our lives. This article surveys both the recent psychological and philosophical literature on this topic and argues that (to different degrees) the work of both disciplines in this area has been hampered by a failure to be clearer about what luck involves. Accordingly, this article offers a specification of what is core to the notion of luck and highlights how this analysis can aid further research in this area by both psychologists and philosophers.
Matthew David Smith
added a project goal
The overall aim of this work is to better understand psychological aspects of experiences we typically ascribe to 'luck' (or chance, fate, etc.). A current development of this work involves exploring the various links between positive psychology and 'luck' experiences. The aim is to better understand the relationship between psychological concepts such as gratitude, mindset, optimism, mindfulness, etc. and our experience of 'luck'. As part of this project, I am developing a 'Go Luck Yourself!' programme as an extension of Wiseman's 'Luck School' (Wiseman, R. [2004]. The Luck Factor. London: Random House.)