Title

"It Could Have Been You": How States Exploit Counterfactual Thought to Market Lotteries

(with Janet Landman)

Publication

Psychology & Marketing

Abstract

Why do so many people spend so much of their hard-earned money playing the lottery? Why do so many people keep at it week after losing week? We explore the possible roles of certain internal and external factors in this behavior. The internal factor is the process of counterfactual thinking (CFT)—that is, imagining what might have been or might still be, or comparing reality (the facts; what is) with what might have been or might still be. The external factor we examine is lottery advertising, which we argue often exploits the normal human capacity for counterfactual thinking. More specifically, we discuss how an inherent feature of virtually all lottery purchases—negative outcome—tends to induce CFT, and how certain cognitive features of counterfactual thinking—such as its salience and degree of absurdity—are manipulated by lottery advertising. We also discuss how certain affective features of lottery-related counterfactual thinking—high personal involvement, direction of CFT, affective assimilation and contrast effects of CFT, and perceived proximity of actual outcome to counterfactual alternatives—are exploited by lottery advertising. We conclude with implications for research and public policy.

Disciplines

Marketing | Psychology

Recommended Citation

Landman, Janet, and Ross Petty. 2000. "It Could Have Been You": How States Exploit Counterfactual Thought to Market Lotteries." Psychology & Marketing 17, no. 4: 299-321

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