1. The Availability Bias
2. Superstitious Thinking and the Gambler’s Fallacy
3. Illusion of Control and Near Misses
4. Unrealistic Optimism Concerning Probabilities
5. Easy to Justify
The price attached to possibly changing your life forever by winning the lottery appears minimal. So the behavior is easy to justify: “I’m only spending a couple bucks and, besides, the money goes to education and helping out older folks in the community.” Similar to smoking, the lottery is easier to justify when you only buy one pack at a time or one ticket every day. Few people would sign on to such an investment if they had to pay tens of thousands of dollars up front with the super-slim hope of winning big over the next 30 or 40 years. It looks a lot less tempting, though, when you consider the total sum of money spent.
6. Social Traps
Some people have been playing lotto games for decades. They may have a few wins and many losses. “But I can’t give up now," they think. "I’ve been playing for 30 years!” The investment in lottery tickets over the years has piled up—and this helps to justify continued investment to recoup losses. No one intentionally dives into a social trap. People just find themselves trapped after discovering that the costs, which were initially hidden, appear too big to jump ship at a given point. A classic example is being on hold on the phone: Many of us reach a point where we don’t want to hang up and start over because there is no way to recover the time spent already.