I liked this article on luck better than the comments, because the article focuses on a range of views about luck (is luck stable or fleeting?) as well as casual references (medical school admission, hot hands in basketball) that describe the ambiguity with which people refer to luck. In my own life, I’ve felt comfortable taking more risks in the academic realm than in the obstetrics realm, based on my relative success over time in each of those areas. This article also made me think about how a single event (massive layoffs announced during my twin pregnancy vs. uneventful pregnancy with current baby) can shape my emotional outlook for a period of years.
A quote from the article:
For example, a gambler who had just won three times in a row, won 67 per cent of the time on his fourth bet. If he won on his fourth bet, then he cleaned up 72 per cent of the time on the fifth bet. Those who lost their first bets were just 47 per cent likely to win on the second and, if they lost again, only 45 per cent likely to win on the third. Could good luck beget good luck and bad luck really beget bad luck, just as the rich get richer and the poor get poorer?
The team then dug deeper to reveal why these streaks were in fact real: it was the bettors’ own doing. As soon as they realised they were winning, they made safer bets, figuring their streaks could not last forever. In other words, they did not believe themselves to have hot hands that would stay hot. A different impulse drove gamblers who lost. Sure that lady luck was due for a visit, they fell for the gambler’s fallacy and made riskier bets. As a result, the winners kept winning (even if the amounts they won were small) and the losers kept losing. Risky bets are less likely to pay off than safe ones. The gamblers changed their behaviours because of their feelings about streaks, which in turn perpetuated those streaks.
What do you think about luck? How do recent successes or failures influence your willingness to take risks in a particular realm?