Winning or losing a bet and the perception of randomness

Abstract

This study examines the potential effects of random gain, loss, or neutral outcomes on individuals’ judgments of randomness in life and in unpredictable life events. Based on existing evidence, we hypothesize that experiencing gain would decrease the perception of randomness, whereas loss would have the opposite effect. One-hundred and ten students participated in a random bet for academic credit required for their introductory psychology course, where they could experience gain (bonus credit), loss (no credit), or neutral (exact credit as promised) outcomes. In addition, they filled out a questionnaire on their beliefs in randomness in general and in various everyday life events, as well as their judgment of the extent to which each event was pre-determined. The results provide partial support for our hypotheses. The participants experiencing a ‘neutral’ result report the highest level of randomness in general and in everyday life events, as well as the highest extent to which the events were judged as pre-determined. Randomness was judged as lower in both the ‘loss’ and ‘gain’ conditions. These patterns only emerge after controlling for gender and religiosity. The results are discussed in light of existing evidence and directions for future studies.

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