Home » Million dollar jackpot – unreasonable and still popular: Why we play the lottery – News

Million dollar jackpot – unreasonable and still popular: Why we play the lottery – News

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Million dollar jackpot – unreasonable and still popular: Why we play the lottery – News


The jackpot is full to the brim. That’s why more people are currently playing the lottery. The more players take part, the lower the chance that one of them will be able to keep all the winnings for themselves. Why the lottery is still popular has, among other things, to do with psychology.

The lottery jackpot is worth 45.3 million francs. It has been untouched since August 26th last year. This is now the third largest jackpot since 1970. On August 23, 2014, the jackpot was won at 48.6 million. The highest jackpot of 70 million francs was won by three players on December 17, 2016.

Swisslos, the Swiss lottery company, expects this high jackpot to have three times as many players as at the beginning of the jackpot period.

But the chance of winning remains low. It is 1 in 31 million. Many will come away empty-handed. Purely mathematically – with a view to the probability calculation – the stake is hardly worth it. Yet many do it. This also has to do with psychological effects.

Small probabilities tend to be overestimated.

Christian Weibel, who researches and lectures in the field of business psychology at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences, explains: “Small probabilities tend to be overestimated.” In other words: “The probability is subjectively estimated to be higher than it actually is.” Your own chances of winning are therefore estimated to be better than they actually are.

In addition, the so-called availability heuristic comes into play. It answers the question of how easily an event comes to mind. “If you read about people who have won the lottery or see a lot of advertising, the likelihood that you will play the lottery yourself increases,” says Weibel.

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Legend: There have already been three lottery millionaires this year. KEYSTONE/Alexandra Wey

Not just unreasonable

However, playing the lottery is not just unreasonable. Because what is specifically meant by rational needs to be defined, says Weibel. “You can also say that there is hardly any other chance of winning such a high amount. And the barrier to entry to play is very low.” No prior knowledge or special infrastructure is required. With just a few francs you are there. So why not try it when there is little to lose.

In everyday life: cognitive distortions

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There are psychological distortions in numerous life situations that deceive us.

The optimism bias: Probabilities are overestimated or underestimated for your own situation. “In surveys, many rate their personal risk of developing an illness as below average,” explains Christian Weibel from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences. The chances of success, on the other hand, are rated above average.

Statistically speaking, these assumptions are irrational. But for the individual they can also be rational and sensible. Christian Weibel says: “One can argue that it is better to go through life optimistically for psychological health reasons. You may also be more likely to succeed if you are in a positive mood than if you are not.”

Der Status Quo-Bias: Current situations are preferred over changes. People are more likely to stick with their previous habits, partly because they have already invested a lot. This distortion can be found in numerous life situations, for example in relationships or when financing projects. “There is a tendency to continue investing in projects even though you know that they are unlikely to be successful,” explains business psychologist Christian Weibel.

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The desire to play, the entertainment and the thrill are also arguments for playing the lottery that count. So it’s not just mathematics alone that counts.

The ball and the bat: Do the thought experiment

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A ball and a bat together cost 1.10 francs. The bat costs one franc more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?

The answer: The ball costs 5 centimes.

Many answer that the ball costs 10 centimes. “It has to do with too much trust in your own intuition,” says Christian Weibel from the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences. Because “thinking quickly”, intuitively, you simply subtract one franc from 1.10 francs and you get 10 centimes.

But correctly the equation is (B for ball) B + (B + 1 franc) = 1.10 francs. If the equation is solved for B, the result is 5 centimes.

More about this in “Echo of Time”

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You can hear more about the topic this evening at 6 p.m. in “Echo der Zeit” on SRF 1 and SRF 4 News.

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