How to Win the Lottery (Happily)

John Tierney in The New York Times:

LotIf you have won the lottery, or if you plan to do so, please keep reading this column. The information is vital not just to your happiness but also to the progress of social science.

You have a chance to dispel the notion of the curse of the lottery, which is blamed whenever a big winner ends up divorced, depressed, destitute or dead. Journalists like to explain that the curse is no mere legend — the futility of winning the jackpot has been demonstrated by actual scientists with jobs at accredited universities. The evidence comes from an influential paper in 1978 reporting that lottery winners were not any happier than their neighbors or more optimistic about the future. In fact, they weren’t any more optimistic about their future happiness than a group of people who had been in accidents that left them paralyzed. It was one of the first studies testing the theory that we’re all stuck on a “hedonic treadmill,” a term coined by the paper’s lead author, Philip Brickman, for the idea that good or bad events don’t permanently affect our levels of happiness. The theory remains popular with many psychologists, and the lottery study is still one of the prime pieces of supporting evidence.

More here.