Ivory Towers The hazards of alcohol, drugs, sex and the national lotter y

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The Independent Culture
It is a fundamental law of academic life that research is conducted into areas for which grants are available. In the early 1950s it was alcohol (see for example "Effect of alcohol on the sexual reflexes of normal and neurotic male dogs," by WH Gantt, Psychosomatic Medicine, vol 14, 1952). In the 1960s the emphasis shifted to psychedelic drugs ("Progressive disturbance of spider web geometry caused by two sedative drugs" by CF Reed and PN Witt, Physiology and Behaviour, vol 3, 1968) and by the 1970s, it had turned to sex ("Great crested flycatcher observed copulating with an immature eastern bluebird" by FJ Alsop, Annals of Applied Biology, 1971.

By the 1980s, however, sex had lost a good deal of its appeal ("Head damage due to mating in Ophiogomphus dragonflies" by SW Dunkle, Notes in Odonatology, vol 2, 1982), which leaves us, in the mid-1990s, with the lottery. Here is a summary of recent results:

1) Who buys lottery tickets? According to a paper ("Luck has nothing to do with it: Launching the UK's largest consumer brand") in the Journal of the Market Research Society in April 1995, we all fall into one of five groups: homely traditionalists, careful planners, escapists, aspiring professionals, and conscientious achievers.

2) Do we know what we're doing? Not according to "Lotteries and the time horizon," (Psychological Science, vol 5, November 1994) which reported a study on 20 New York undergraduates who were offered hypothetical choices between lottery tickets and small sums of money. A one in a million chance of winning $1m proved to be just as popular as a guaranteed sum of $9.

3) Will winning change my life? Not if you're Norwegian. A study of 261 winners of top prizes in the Norwegian lottery showed a reaction of moderate happiness, caution, control and inconspicuous spending.

4) Will the lottery turn us all into gamblers? According to a 1988 study in the Journal of Gambling Behaviour, "lotteries do not significantly increase the amount of compulsive gambling in society". That research was, however, based on a survey of 74 people all of whom had won $1m or more in the Ohio state lottery. We conclude that lotteries do not turn lottery winners into gamblers.