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Are you Lucky? Professor Richard Wiseman the Leading Authority On Luck

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If you’re into hard analysis of the edge of sciences such as noetics,  the paranormal and such-like, then you should have heard of professor Richard Wiseman. Born in 1966 he is the Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England. Interestingly, before he became an author and  leading light on such subjects as the nature of luck, he was a magician!

He is probably best known for his decade-long study into luck.  In his study he found that 12 percent of people in the general population identify themselves as lucky, 9 percent as unlucky and most people consider themselves neither lucky nor unlucky. In his epic study he chose equal numbers of  lucky and unlucky subjects.

In an early experiment, he had everyone enter the National UK Lottery. The “lucky” people did no better in the lottery than the “unlucky” people. However he found that the people who considered themselves lucky often had a more positive outlook on life and therefore interpreted events in a more upbeat way, then those who considered themselves unlucky. For example, a lucky person whose plane developed engine trouble and who made a successful but bumpy landing at an unscheduled airport would say that they were lucky to have escaped with their life. The person who considered themselves unlucky would say that they were unlucky to have been on a plane that got diverted to a different airport, causing delay and inconvenience.

In one experiment, the doctor asked his subjects to count the number of photographs in a newspaper. Unlucky people averaged about two minutes to finish the task, lucky people just a few seconds. How come? Well on the second page of the paper was a message, in letters two-inches high, which said “Stop counting — there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Lucky people usually noticed it. Unlucky people tended to miss it, as well as second message halfway through the paper: “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.”   Wiseman speculated that this was because unlucky people tended to be more tense and less likely to notice the unexpected. Those that considered themselves lucky came across as more relaxed and able to see what is there, rather than what they are looking for.

This ability to recognize and capitalize on chance opportunities is important if you are going to make the best out of what life throws at you. So is creating the opportunities for luck to occur. The study indicated that this was something  that lucky people seemed to do without even thinking. Lucky people more often than not wanted to break from routine and have variety in their lives. These new or random experiences introduced new opportunities that, in turn, lucky people recognized and acted upon.  And the more opportunities a person encounters, the more likely it is that one or more of these opportunities would turn out to be surprisingly good.

So you don’t need to have the luck of the Irish, a four-leaf clover, a lucky horseshoe, or some gypsy heather. What you need is a dose of inquisitiveness,  inventiveness, the willing to experiment, and to make sure you don’t get stuck in a groove. Good luck with your endeavours!

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