Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lottery Players Impose Reason on Randomness Report Highlights Methods in Numbers Game

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lottery Players Impose Reason on Randomness Report Highlights Methods in Numbers Game

Article excerpt

Playing the lottery is a rational activity done most often by people who use rational methods to try to beat the odds.

That's the conclusion of a study reported Monday about how people play the Florida lottery.

"The biggest surprise is how much more rational an endeavor playing the lottery is than I or anyone else who follows this issue ever imagined," said the researcher, Susan Losh.

It's rational because the lottery is played more often by those who can afford it than by the poor, Losh said. And the methods that most people use when playing are the most effective - despite incredible odds against winning.

Rational methods include picking and repeatedly playing a special date like a birthday or anniversary. Only a small percentage of players use such less rational methods as playing numbers they get via dreams, prayer or astrology, she said.

Losh is a social scientist at Florida State University, in Tallahassee. She reported the findings in Baltimore at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The report was one of several given in a session on the general public's views about science and reason.

Losh, who has never played the lottery, received no funding to do the study. Any state that allows players to pick lottery numbers should show similar results, she said. That includes Missouri and Illinois.

Lottery players can buy tickets with preselected numbers or they can create their own numbers. Losh focused on how lottery players select numbers and what social factors influence their selection process.

She analyzed random telephone surveys of 681 people in the Tallahassee area done in 1991 and 1994 by the Florida Annual Policy Survey.

Among the findings:

Just under half of those surveyed play the lottery regularly.

Four out of five lottery players pick their own numbers. …

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