Buying a lottery ticket is one of the most irrational things we can do. The odds of winning Mega Millions jackpot which has now hit $1.6 billion are drastically small. In fact, a person is 400 times more likely to be hit by lightning than winning the lottery. Yet, millions of people buy a ticket, and the number increases every time there’s a huge prize at the end.
On top of that, winning a jackpot doesn’t guarantee happiness. When studying the psychological impact of winning a lottery, researchers found that for those who won at least $100,000 in the lottery happiness and mental health weren’t significantly impacted. It has also been reported that winning an enormous lottery prize is not that different, in terms of how it will affect your life, than winning a more ordinary large prize. And yet, whenever a lottery hits a record-setting level, more people buy tickets.
So, why are millions of people okay with just wasting $2 entering a lottery that they very well know that they’re not going to win?
Because it provides them hope, as simple as that. For a brief time, they are able to get into a fantasy land where they think anything is possible, like they used to do when they were kids.
They feel $2 is worth it because they can be a part of the collective hysteria, and they know that if they don’t spend that money, it would mean going back to their own world where they would be alone and feel left behind.
The funny thing is not how reckless and irrational we can be with spending our money again and again, but how often we come up with such storylines that propel us to engage in these behaviors.
It’s not about getting rewarded in the long-term, we’re only driven by the notion that we can experience the feeling of hope, possibility and faux relief right now and the ephemeral pleasure of belonging to a tribe that comes with it.