Underlying cognitions in the selection of lottery tickets



There is evidence that the faulty cognitions underlying an individual's playing behavior maintains and supports their gambling behavior. Sixty undergraduate students completed the South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS), a measure to assess pathological gambling, and a questionnaire ascertaining the type and frequency of their gambling activities. Sixteen Loto 6/49 tickets were presented to participants and ranked according to their perceived likelihood of being the winning ticket. The numbers on the tickets were categorized as: long sequences (e.g., 1–2–3–4–5–6), patterns and series in a pseudo-psychological order (e.g., 16–21–26–31–36–41), unbalanced (e.g., six numbers from 1–24 or 25–49), and those appearing to be random (e.g., 11–14–20–29–37–43). Verbal protocols of ticket selections were ranked into eight heuristics. Results revealed that for the entire sample the greatest percentage of tickets chosen for the first four selections were “random” tickets. Further, the most commonly cited reason for selecting and changing a lottery ticket was perceived randomness. The results are discussed with reference to the cognitions used when purchasing lottery tickets. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Clin Psychol 57: 749–763, 2001.