Stocktake: Lotteries, day trading and magical thinking

Visualise winning and make it happen – it’s nonsense of the highest order, of course

New York Stock Exchange. ‘Using the law of attraction in your day trading is an excellent tool to add to the charts or fundamentals that you already use’, according to one website. Photograph:  Bryan R Smith/AFP via Getty Images

New York Stock Exchange. ‘Using the law of attraction in your day trading is an excellent tool to add to the charts or fundamentals that you already use’, according to one website. Photograph: Bryan R Smith/AFP via Getty Images

 

Why do so many people succumb to self-evidently money-losing propositions? A new paper, Lottery strategies: monetising players’ behavioral biases, posits that lottery marketers engage in magical thinking to try and create an illusion of control. It refers to sources that speak of the “laws of attraction”, the idea that “in your mind you have the power to make your thoughts a reality”. Visualise winning, “manifest your millions” – it’s nonsense of the highest order, but there’s clearly an appetite for this kind of wishful thinking, judging by the success of bestselling books like The Secret.

Magical thinking isn’t just used to sell lotteries; a quick google shows it’s also used to peddle speculative day-trading strategies. “Using the law of attraction in your day trading is an excellent tool to add to the charts or fundamentals that you already use”, one website says. “Visualise to actualise”, recommends another, which talks about how our energy vibrations “go into the universe”. Another says you can “harness the law of attraction to milk the market every week... think about winning your next trade and feel like a winner, feel the money.”

Indeed. Retail speculative activity has exploded in 2020; alas, the magical-thinking traders are the ones who are going to get milked, not the market.

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