We designed a questionnaire to measure participants' beliefs about luck and their feelings about gambling and luck. Our participants were mostly
from Las Vegas, Nevada, thus questions about gambling were probably more relevant
to our participants than in the studies conducted in Durham, North Carolina (Greene, 1960; Ratte & Greene, 1960) or Edinburgh, Scotland (Gissuarson & Morris, 1991).
Among other things, we queried participants about how often they felt unlucky, if they felt they could control their luck, and how lucky they felt just prior to participating in the experimental task. Another feature of the questionnaire was the inclusion of open-ended items asking for descriptions about how participants felt about luck. This proved to be important in understanding how individuals defined luck for themselves.
Twenty-one participants were recruited from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas community by flyers posted around campus and through word of mouth from previous participants (P). P's were greeted by the first author (E) and led into one of the experimental suites at the Consciousness Research Laboratory. P was asked to fill out a Participant Information Form (PIF) a Nowlis Mood Scale (Nowlis, 1965), and a Luck Questionnaire.
P's filled out the questionnaires, E also completed a Nowlis Mood Scale with two additional questions: "How well do you think this participant will do on this luck experiment?" and "How lucky do you feel at this moment?" After all the paperwork was completed, E escorted P to the experimental setup.
Before beginning the experiment, E showed P a photograph of the computer screen display to give him/her a sense of what to expect when the trial began. E explained that P should concentrate on a one-inch horizontal line at the top center of the screen. P was asked to imagine that the line was a feather which would usually drift down, but it might also drift upwards, much like a current of air might affect a real feather. P was asked to concentrate on having the feather land on the bottom of the screen as far away from the center of the screen line as possible. The simulated feather was programmed to shrink as it dropped, such that by the time it reached the bottom of the screen, it was one pixel in length.
Click here for technical details of the experiment.
After explaining what the screen would look like, E turned on a small incandescent lamp and turned off the overhead fluorescent light to enhance the screen display. At no time did E tell P that if they were successful with this task, they would win a prize, however throughout the instructions, E repeatedly emphasized that this was an experiment on luck. E's last words to P were "good luck", then she walked behind an acoustic barrier and waited until the experiment was over.
P began the run when ready. After about 2 minutes, the program was completed and it displayed whether P had won a prize. Prizes were awarded if the feather landed anywhere other than within one of the two "zero boxes", as shown in Figure 1. The prizes ranged from a small candy bar if the feather landed in a "1" box, a large Snicker's Bar for a "2" box, a large pack of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups for a "3" box, a large can of macadamia nuts for a "4" box, and a huge sausage for a "5" box. Box positions 4 and 5 were not displayed on the screen, nor did E mention the existence of these boxes.