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I have been pondering the psychological utility of things such as playing the lottery. I fully accept that the odds against winning are astronomical and are as follows –


Tattslotto      1 in 8,145,060

Oz Lotto         1 in 45,379,620

Powerball       1 in 54,979,155

Now balance these against against the chances of other event occurring –

Shark Attack             1 in 11,500,000

Killed by Lightning    1 in 1,603,250

Killed by Bee Sting     1 in 1,159,364

Having Malaria           1 in 21,739

When put into the context of these events the chances of winning the lottery seem remote. However, I wonder if there is something more at play than simple irrationality. My views on human irrationality are simple – it is an unbounded frontier. That is the capacity of most people to be irrational is unlimited. As a consequence their ability to be rationale is very limited. Based upon simple economic utility there is no reason to play a lottery even with the profound irrationality of people.

It is for these reasons that I wonder whether something else is going on. My take on the issue is that what we are seeing is actually somewhat rationale in that playing the lottery may offer a cheap form of therapy for people. It is a momentary release from the mundane – as such it has a distinct utility. Playing the lottery enables people to move through their day to day lives. It makes them functional and it does so at a low cost. It achieves this by giving them the power to dream of a life that is different. This release acts as a balm for their current existence.

I could probably extend this a little further and make a case for lottery playing not only being of psychological utility but also an economic utility. The economic utility arises making people functional in their working life by providing an outlet. The outlet is those few moments when people imagine how their life might change. In this context what seems irrational becomes very rational.

This power to dream is a powerful motivator. Consider it within the context of trading which is the arena we are familiar with.

When you decide to take on this most difficult of tasks and become a trader you must have had a reason for doing so. These reasons undoubtedly involved imagining what the future as a trader held for you, you dreamed of possible futures.

Dreaming is a simple child like skill that is lost in adulthood my own supposition is that the rather utilitarian responsibilities of being an adult tends to grind it out of as. Being an adult has responsibilities we have demands placed upon us these demands are often very mundane and domestic. The life we lead is often in conflict with the impression of life that we would have imagined for ourselves. This is where being prompted to dream of an alternate future courtesy of a profoundly unlikely event such as winning the lottery comes into play.

Traders have an image of themselves as successful traders, this habitual imagery is extraordinarily important for success. It creates an unshakeable self belief,  optimism about the future leads to a positive expectation about events as they unfold. Pessimism which is really a lack of dreams  breed’s negative outcomes.

Traders must have the ability to believe and to dream. Believing follows a set path. Firstly the trader encounters the market, with each passing trade the belief that trading can be mastered grows. This is the beginning of establishing a set of intuitive responses that is reinforced with each passing encounter with the market. The second stage moves from intuitive responses to intuitive beliefs. This is the concept of faith, this is the highest level of belief. It is your belief in your ability as a trader.

It is effectively your dream.








  1. Natalie Murray says:

    There is one more reason to play lotto…
    In case the work syndicate actually managed to pull it off, I don’t want to be the only poor bugger left there getting postcards.

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