Jane McGonigal on Entering the Lottery

24 Feb, 2020

Jane McGonigal on Entering the Lottery

Alum and game researcher Jane McGonigal proposes an interesting argument in her latest Wired article: lotteries can be used to induce positive behavior in society. How? By activating the reward-anticipation pathways in our brains.

McGonigal explains further: when we await a positive outcome, there is a brief — but powerful — feeling of hope and motivation. This feeling is commonly found when buying lottery tickets. Even when people lose, that dopamine rush is so addictive they attempt to try their chances again.

From the article:

For decades, many sociologists and economists have argued that lotteries are a net negative for society, draining resources from people who can’t afford to throw money away on wishful thinking. But an alternative viewpoint has emerged recently: that the irrational hope that lotteries generate is actually a significant resource to be used as a tool for widespread social change.

In Lesotho, epidemiologists used lotteries to slow the spread of HIV by 21 per cent: winners were only eligible to receive their cash prize if they tested negative for the virus. Cardiologists at the University of Pennsylvania found that they could cut in half the number of patients regularly skipping prescribed heart medication – by offering them a 1 in 100 chance at a daily $100 prize for taking their pills on schedule.

Read the entirety of the article here.