Richard Wiseman says lucky people tend to be more relaxed and see more. Photo credit: Brian Fischbacher
Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor, has been described by Scientific American as “…the most interesting and innovative experimental psychologist in the world today.”
As luck would have it, he will speak at Discovery Summit Europe in Amsterdam to share his research on why some people lead happy, successful lives, while others face repeated failure and sadness.
I had a chance to ask him a couple of questions in advance of his speech.
Anne: Your interest in the remarkable has spanned most of your life — what motivated you to study luck?
Richard: Luck exerts a powerful influence in our lives. Luck can transform the improbable into the possible. Luck can make the difference between life and death, reward and ruin, happiness and misery. Luck plays a vital role in our lives. Having the opportunity to study the behaviours of thousands of volunteers who self-identified as lucky or unlucky led to amazing insights and a radical new way of looking at luck and increasing it.
Anne: I love your experiment on counting photos in newspapers, with the huge message on the second page, “STOP COUNTING THERE ARE 43 PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS NEWSPAPER,” followed by the message pages later, “STOP COUNTING AND TELL THE EXPERIMENTER YOU HAVE SEEN THIS AND WIN £100.” Tell us why lucky people tend to notice opportunities like this and unlucky people don't.
Richard: Lucky people tend to be more relaxed and more likely to notice chance opportunities, even when they aren’t expecting them. Whereas unlucky people tend to be anxious and often have a very narrow, focused beam of attention — thinking about getting to a meeting on time, finding a new job, or worrying about their problems — that can cause them to miss unexpected opportunities that are all around them. It is somewhat ironic, but by not trying too hard to look, lucky people end up seeing far more.
Anne: We like to think JMP helps people stay in flow and be relaxed in their data exploration, helping them notice things more easily — in effect making them luckier in finding important things in their data. You conclude The Luck Factor with a short section called "Beyond the Luck Factor," touching on how we have the opportunity to shape the future with luckier children, communities and countries. We are excited for you to present to our engaged, curious and lucky community of JMP users at Discovery Summit Europe with the potential to make them even luckier through sharing more of your research findings.
Do you want to be one of the lucky ones to hear Richard Wiseman speak? Make your own luck and join us in Amsterdam!