Coincidence traps

An airline we took recently was selling lottery tickets.

The flight attendant announced: “On this flight yesterday, a passenger won €2 million. Today might as well be your chance.”

From a probabilistic point of view, knowing that information does nothing to improve my odds of winning. And yet, it is used as a sales pitch that gets a couple of people to buy those tickets.

Our brains are liable to using patterns and coincidences to estimate outcomes. This tendency is stronger than our ability to think in terms of probability. Astrologers, casinos and con men alike have perfected the art of exploiting this gap to take away our money.

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