Are you feeling lucky? | Psychology today


A scanning electron microscope image showing SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) emerging from the cell surface (blue / pink).

Source: Credit: NIAID-RML

A lot of Americans, not me, firmly believe that they can control their luck. They are unaware – most are not – that luck, when taken too strongly, is often escorted by greed. The big bet now is to get or not to get the free Covid vaccine against terrible disease or even death.

Consider this thought experiment: The Angel of Death comes to you with an offer. You have the choice between two unmarked suitcases: one contains $ 1,000, the other $ 200,000. In addition, you have the choice between a guarantee of not getting sick and not dying for the next 10 years or keeping one of the unmarked suitcases. Which option do you take, one of the suitcases or the death exit card?

On December 10, 2007, NBC aired an episode of their hit show Agree or disagree in which Shalanda London, a candidate from Cedar Hill, Texas, received, in essence, the same offer as our thought experiment, with the exception of the death exit card offer. She had the option of raising $ 101,000 (roughly the average between these two extreme amounts) or keeping one of the two unmarked suitcases. With her unyielding feeling that luck was on her side, she turned the deal down and ended up with the suitcase containing $ 1,000.

In her head, she flipped a coin. Each suitcase was identical; nothing favored one choice over the other. She thought – but not quite in those words –Here is $ 101,000. To free. But I’m given an opportunity to almost double that by flipping a coin. If the coin goes heads, I would almost double my money. If it’s tails, I only win $ 1000.

Why wouldn’t she accept the gift of $ 101,000, a profit windfall from a game that even predicts the odds of winning and losing? After all, his life was not at stake.

When the Angel of Death makes a gambling offer involving life, there is always something suspicious behind it. In this case, it tests or studies human behavior. Is greed behind the decision? Or is it a low appreciation of life? The reasons for the choice depend on many things. One would be comparative wealth and utility; for a billionaire, for example, those suitcases might have to contain $ 100 million and $ 2 billion to change their choice. Another would be the happiness of living and a third would be his profile of risky behavior.

Over the past year, several states have offered cash incentives to get the vaccine. New York State offered free scratch lottery tickets with 13 prizes ranging from $ 20 million to $ 5 million, although most were under $ 500. The state is now offering $ 100 in freebies to those who receive a reminder. Other states offered $ 20 gift cards to anyone who got the first shot.

What about money that could balance a choice between $ 20 and life or, in other words, between $ 20 and the peace of mind of being protected from one of the nonliving things? the deadliest in the world?

Consider the following experiment: bring two groups together A and B Random Americans. Group A is fully immunized against the most harmful variant and receives $ 5,000. Group B is not vaccinated. The Angle of Death offers group members A the choice to keep the $ 5,000 and the promise to honor full immunity from death or toss a coin – heads win $ 1,500 and sides lose $ 1,500. At the same time, provide students with B the choice of wagering on a certain win with a promise of full protection from death and a gift of $ 5,000 or flipping a coin – heads wins $ 6,500 and tails $ 3,500. Note: There is no mathematical difference between the two conditions. The odds of winning are the same for both groups.

Psychologists correctly predict that this group A will have a higher percentage of people opting for the raffle. It may sound strange, but the members of the group A will think subliminally, I am already immune to death. If I play there is a 50% chance of winning $ 1,500 and a 50% chance of losing $ 1,500. Group members B mentally counts, If I play, I will win $ 3,500 for sure, plus I have a 50% chance of increasing my winnings from $ 3,500 to $ 6,500. For both groups, the prior gain is greater than the potential loss. Group A Interpret the message in two steps: $ 5,000 is already mine, and there is a chance to win $ 6,500 more. Group B forgot that previous step of winning $ 5,000. The problem therefore arises as a pure bet.

By human behavior and risk management, there are apparent contradictions. Behavior towards risk depends not only on how that risk is perceived, but also on the risk taker’s view on gains and losses. With regard to risky behavior, there seems to be an asymmetry between risk aversion and the risk-seeking for mathematically equivalent choices.

Much of the gambling behavior is based on immediate prior wins or losses. For many, not being infected with Covid-19 is a strong incentive to risk future avoidance with extremely skewed odds. It feels like playing with the free money from the house: I did not contract the Covid, so I must already be immunized. Game choices are not made in historical isolation; they represent the old results of fortune.

Still, it’s a mystery why some habitual social gamers can manage their gaming pleasures while others lose judgment over rational gaming behavior in a thrill-seeking flirtation with danger.


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