Before we embark on anything remotely auspicious, we ask everyone to “wish us luck!”. Sometimes we say it for the sake of saying it, and don’t believe it when they excitedly reply “good luck!” Sometimes we internalise the luck they wish upon us. But does luck actually exist?
Hollywood has romanticised luck into a magical presences instantly transforming our bleak lives into a haven. Everything you want comes true, everything you touch turns into gold. The sun is always shining, birds are chirping, and people are constantly singing and dancing to the tune of happiness. According to Hollywood, luck is magical.
Although I’d love to believe in the notion of luck and often find myself referring to certain people as lucky, I must admit, I harbour some skepticism. It may be because the psychology bug has bitten me and left me under it’s spell, or it may be due to the common sense voice in the back of my head saying that luck is a made up construct that we use to label the way in which people carry themselves in certain situations.
What does psychology have to say about luck?
Psychology explains luck though the notion of a locus of control. Typically, individuals have one of two locus of controls – internal or external. The type of locus of control dictates to a certain extent our belief in luck.
An individual who has an internal locus of control will attribute their success to personal strife and work. For example, if a student with an internal locus of control scored well in an exam, they would believe that their results were achieved through study and hard work.
Comparatively, individuals with an external locus of control would believe that their successes or downfalls are a result of external forces, such as luck and fate. For example, if a student with an external locus of control receives a good score, they may attribute their score to good luck. If the same student received a poor score, they may say it was bad luck or that their teacher hates them.
Albeit, there are circumstances where this concept of control does not apply. For example, things left to chance, like getting struck by lightning or winning the lotto, could simply be a matter of being in the right or wrong place at a specific time.