The Psychology of Lottery

In the short story Lottery, Shirley Jackson reveals human evilness by showing that people do horrible things to one another and just think of it as ordinary. The story starts by explaining how the lottery is a tradition and that everyone takes part in it. The children assemble first, of course, because they are always the first to gather for anything. The villagers greet each other and exchange gossip while they wait their turn to be picked.

In most modern lotteries, participants can choose a set of numbers that will be randomly chosen for them. They can also opt to allow a computer program to select their numbers for them, and they will usually be required to mark a box or section on their playslip to indicate this. These options are not considered gambling under strict definitions of the term because they do not require that an individual pay a consideration in order to participate.

Even though the odds of winning a lottery are absurdly low, it is not uncommon for people to spend huge sums on the tickets. Lotteries are able to sell such tickets because they appeal to an inexplicable and inherent human desire to gamble. They can do so by dangling the promise of instant riches in an age of growing economic inequality and limited social mobility.

Lottery promoters know this and use a variety of psychological strategies, including the psychology of addiction, to keep players coming back for more. It is not all that different from how companies like tobacco and video-game manufacturers operate.