What Are the Chances?

Why We Believe in Luck

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Pub Date 03 Aug 2021 | Archive Date 10 Nov 2021

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Description

Most of us, no matter how rational we think we are, have a lucky charm, a good-luck ritual, or some other custom we follow in the hope that it will lead to a good result. Is the idea of luckiness just a way in which we try to impose order on chaos? Do we live in a world of flukes and coincidences, good and bad breaks, with outcomes as random as a roll of the dice—or can our beliefs help change our luck?

What Are the Chances? reveals how psychology and neuroscience explain the significance of the idea of luck. Barbara Blatchley explores how people react to random events in a range of circumstances, examining the evidence that the belief in luck helps us cope with a lack of control. She tells the stories of lucky and unlucky people—winning the lottery multiple times, surviving seven brushes with death, finding an apparently cursed Neanderthal mummy—as well as the accidental discoveries that fundamentally changed what we know about the brain. Blatchley considers our frequent misunderstanding of randomness, the history of luckiness in different cultures and religions, the surprising benefits of magical thinking, and many other topics. Offering a new view of how the brain handles the unexpected, What Are the Chances? shows why an arguably irrational belief can—fingers crossed—help us as we struggle with an unpredictable world.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Barbara Blatchley is a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Agnes Scott College. Her research focuses on auditory sensory physiology, and she is the author of Statistics in Context (2018).

Most of us, no matter how rational we think we are, have a lucky charm, a good-luck ritual, or some other custom we follow in the hope that it will lead to a good result. Is the idea of luckiness...


Advance Praise

"Blatchley provides a colorful and accessible look at the fascinating nature of luck. Focusing on the human side, the neuroscientific and psychological aspects, she explores what luck is and the role luck plays in our lives."

--David Hand, emeritus professor of mathematics and senior research investigator, Imperial College London, and author of The Improbability Principle

"Blatchley provides a colorful and accessible look at the fascinating nature of luck. Focusing on the human side, the neuroscientific and psychological aspects, she explores what luck is and the role...


Available Editions

EDITION Hardcover
ISBN 9780231198684
PRICE $27.95 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

The Chances Are Good That This Is A Solid Book. Blatchley does an excellent job of looking at the various reasons why we believe in luck, from the societal to the social to the psychological and even the biological. And she does it with enough precision to do justice to the mathematics involved, but with enough generality to be enjoyable to a non-mathematics-oriented public. Overall an excellent "popular science" level look at the subject at hand, and very much recommended.

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It is a wonderful little read about luck. We say this word everyday, but we don't know how it works. This book takes a deep and scientific take on the luck. It has wonderful stories. Four girls surviving in sea for weeks. A man surviving seven life threatening accidents. A lady winning multiple lotteries. A detailed explanation about brain and new research about luck. It is a very good and insightful book about eternal human belief in something known as luck.

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A nice easy read on the psychology of chance and luck. The author, a psychology professor, explains chance and luck. Lots of nice stories about “lucky” people. It was good to see various psychological sub-disciplines being explained (in a lot of detail) and then applied to chance and luck. Broadly, these were: - statistics and probability theory - social psychology - cognitive psychology - biopsychology and neuroscience Having said that, it wasn’t the most exciting of books. I wasn’t eagerly waking up every morning excited to read a chapter. Definitely worth a read but don’t expect it to rock your world!

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