Evaluating R. Wiseman's The Luck Factor

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In this essay I will critically evaluate R. Wiseman’s “The Luck Factor” in which the author attempts to use scientific methods to answer the question of why some people are luckier than others. Wiseman puts forth the empirical theory that luck, good and bad, is influenced by our daily actions. He then uses this theory as a premise to make the argument that we can learn behavior that will introduce good luck into our lives. Although Wiseman makes some interesting points I will show how he fails to sufficiently back up his theory and hence calls into doubt his argument that a person’s luck can be changed.

Theory Summary

Wiseman has identified three regularities in this article. First, the pattern of lucky people having more chance encounters than unlucky people. Wiseman theorizes that lucky people easily spot opportunities and even go out of their way to increase those opportunities. This is backed up by several observations. First, the results of an experiment where subjects are asked to count the number of photographs in a newspaper. The author claims lucky people seized the opportunity in the form of instructions to stop counting while unlucky people continued to the end. Another observation described how a participant changed his commute before making a big decision thereby increasing his luck. Yet another subject described how, before attending a party, he plans a strategy of talking to a certain group of people thereby forcing himself to meet new people. A final
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Wiseman theorizes that anxiety causes the luckless to miss chance opportunities. The article describes an experiment where subjects are asked to concentrate on a dot and then moving dots are added to the screen. When extra stimuli are added to the experiment in the form of monetary rewards, subjects tended to miss the additional dots. From this, Wiseman surmises that unlucky people, tending to be anxious, miss unexpected