Nice piece in this week's Economist on Britain's love affair with gambling and lotteries in particular (HT @lauradavies24)
Lovely descriptions of how - in the face of systematic randomness (yes, past performance has no impact on future performance) we twist ourselves inside out to make choice easier - we use shorthands to pick winners (including following "expert" advice or familiar or "special" numbers) And how we ignore the simple rule that the more familiar the number the smaller the share of any (randomly-allocated) winning ticket.
As we've discussed before, herd-thinking is particularly tricky in financial decision-making - you often need to stand back and consider the facts of the matter (however hard and unnatural that is!)
But at the simplest level, those of us who play the lottery - the "numerically challenged" as some would have us - often do it because everyone we know's doing it...
Interesting piece covered in a lot of mainstreampresstoday by Alberto Aceri of Bristol Uni and team about trends in words used in english Language novels over the last 100 years reveals about us:
" Britain's literature has grown less emotional since the 1960s, but American literature has become more so. Overall, English-language literature has used far fewer emotionally-charged words over time, but American writers have bucked the trend: They've ramped up their use of "mood words" in the past few decades as Brits have grown more stoic." With the exception of "fear" words (as the red line above indicates).
The ebb and flow of sentiment is also clear:
The point being that even really simple analyses of data that's lying about (or observations that can be turned into data) can reveal important changes in our culture
NB THIS may or may not (as the authors and commentary in the Atlantic both observe) reflect how we experience things: e.g. "the socially-conservative
mores of Elizabethan England led to an increased demand for writing ''obsessed with romance and sex"" BUT it certainly reflects the culture and the products of that culture. And it's free!
So today's challenge is this: what can you do with the offcuts of data you have lying around to reveal what's going on beneath?