Friday, October 16, 2009

The Science of Luck - Really!

When I saw the headline, "Be Lucky – It's an Easy Skill to Learn," I thought, "Oh boy, here's another unscientific bit that might be fun to deconstruct!" Imagine my surprise and pleasure to instead find that this article about good luck was actually scientific, well researched, and fun to read!

Prof Richard Wiseman of the University of Hertfordshire (UK), according to his own web page, "has gained an international reputation for research into quirky areas of psychology, including deception, humour, luck and the paranormal." He has a REALLY cool blog with some great illusions and puzzles.

Many people, perhaps most, think their luck is a metaphysical phenomenon, controlled by beneficent or malevolent forces of good and evil, or maybe god, fairies, devils, what have you. When bad things happen, they are victims; when good things happen, they don't take credit.

Wiseman took the approach of a true man of science. He studied it, and discovered that the people themselves caused their own fortune and misfortune. After interviewing hundreds of self-described lucky and unlucky people, he discovered the underlying reasons:
  • Lucky people were able to spot opportunities quickly and take them. Unlucky people overlooked opportunities, even obvious ones.
  • Lucky people were optimistic and relaxed, unlucky people were anxious and worried.
  • Lucky people listen to their intuition, unlucky people do not.
  • Lucky people had positive expectations, unlucky people expect the worst.
If that were the end of it, you might imagine that unlucky people were pessimistic and shunned their intuition because bad luck had taught them bitter lessons. But Professor Wiseman went a step further: he offered lessons in how to improve luck, and it worked!

This is real science, and it's refreshing. All too often in this blog, I find myself criticizing yet another silly quasi-religious pseudo-scientific theory, whether it is homeopathy, scientology, or faith healing. It's too bad there aren't more men and women like Professor Wiseman, showing world that our fates are really in our own hands, not some mythical, mystical world of demons, fairies and gods. Life is much better when we live in the real world.

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Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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