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A number of studies show that luck is more of a self-fulfilling prophecy, and you can actually create it yourself.

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Sources:
http://richardwiseman.com/resources/The_Luck_Factor.pdf
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/3335275.stm
http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0956797610372631
http://www.anderson.ucla.edu/Documents/areas/fac/management/young_chen_morris_2009.pdf
https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/jul/25/psychology-donald-trump-win-luck-superstition
http://www.popsci.com/luck-real
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/as-luck-would-have-it/
https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Bandura/BanEncy.html

Image Source:
https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Richard_Wiseman_-_EdSciFest_2014_(35).JPG
[♩INTRO].

Sometimes it just feels like you’re having a lucky day. Maybe you got the last concert tickets to see your favorite band, or you found 20 bucks on the sidewalk.

Either way, you were in the right spot at the right time -- and bam! Your day suddenly got awesome. Now, luck might be a strange thing for someone to believe in -- especially because we can’t prove it really exists -- but psychologists have found it’s a very powerful thing.

And whether or not you believe in luck might even determine how successful you are. Well, sort of. In a now classic 2010 study, psychologists in Germany challenged 28 university students to a game of mini golf, where each person had to putt the ball ten times from about a meter away.

Half the group was given a ball they were told had been lucky so far. The other half was told the ball had just been the one everyone was using. Now, there’s no such thing as a lucky ball, so it really shouldn’t have mattered.

But the students who were told they were using the lucky ball performed 35% better. To figure out why this happened, the same researchers also recruited about 40 students who admitted to having lucky charms, and then had them take a memory test either with or without their charm. Once again, the people who got to keep their charms scored better on the quiz -- but they also reported feeling more confident beforehand.

And that is where researchers think our lucky totems get their powers. Just having the charms around boosted the students’ self-efficacy, or the belief that they had the right skills and abilities to succeed. This played out in a follow-up experiment, where 31 students with or without their lucky charms were given a separate, untimed test to make as many anagrams as they could from 8 letters.

Before the challenge, each participant was asked what percentage of all possible solutions they wanted to find before they gave up. The team found that those allowed to keep their charms set higher goals for themselves and worked harder to identify more words, devoting more than 5 extra minutes to the task. This suggests that, because they believed their charms would help them do well, the students were more ambitious and willing to put in more effort.

Really, it’s all just a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you think your lucky Star Wars action figure will help you ace a test, you’ll probably be more motivated to study for it, even if you don’t realize it. And that is what will get you an A, not the Darth Vader in your pants...

Still, this kind of positive thinking can be really powerful -- and it doesn’t just apply to lucky charms. In fact, people who just think of themselves as lucky people also reap the rewards. In a survey of about 200 college students, those who agreed with statements like ‘I often feel like it is my lucky day’, or ‘Luck works in my favor,’ were more likely to have high levels of what psychologists call achievement motivation -- a sense of persistence and drive -- compared to those who believed luck was only fleeting.

And more persistence and drive probably means you’ll ultimately do better when it comes to exams, homework, or your job. One psychologist, Richard Wiseman, who’s spent over a decade studying the psychology of luck, has found that people ‘make their own luck’ by being more open to unexpected opportunities. In one experiment, he recruited people who considered themselves lucky or unlucky, and then tasked them with counting the number of photographs in a newspaper as quickly as they could.

The lucky people finished on average much faster than their unlucky peers -- but not because they counted faster. Instead, they spotted a message in big font on top of the page that said, “Stop counting -- there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” Meanwhile, the unlucky people were so focused on the photos, they’d missed the clue. Wiseman argues that part of what makes someone ‘lucky’ is this openness to new ideas.

If you’re receptive to unexpected opportunities -- like a business offer, or meeting someone new on the subway -- you can capitalize on them instead of letting them slip by. Another experiment showed that lucky people also tend to be more optimistic, if something tragic or unlucky happens, they’re more likely to see the silver lining, and that may allow them to stay positive and overcome challenges that come their way. Some of these qualities may be personality-based.

Wiseman evaluated many lucky and unlucky people with personality tests, and found that so-called ‘lucky people’ are usually more extroverted and open and less neurotic, or tense and anxious. But still he thinks anyone can increase their luck by changing their expectations and going out of their way to try new things. So, while there’s no evidence that luck exists, it doesn’t seem like anything bad will happen if you decide to believe in it.

Really, you’re still doing all the work, and making that good luck come true, but sometimes it’s nice to think it came from a lucky touch, from Darth Vader in your pants. Thanks for watching this episode of SciShow Psych! If you want to keep getting more of them keep up-to-date on brain stuff, all our latest videos are going to be in your subscription box if only you go to youtube.com/scishowpsych to subscribe. [♩OUTRO ].