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Please upgrade to a newer Web browser! Psychological theorists have consistently emphasized the importance of perceptions of control over life events. One of the earliest instances of this is when Adler argued that people strive for proficiency in their lives. The illusion is more common in familiar situations, and in situations where the person knows the desired outcome. Feedback that emphasizes success rather than failure can increase the effect, while feedback that emphasizes failure can decrease or reverse the effect. The illusion might arise because people lack direct introspective insight into whether they are in control of events.
This has been called the introspection illusion. Instead they may judge their degree of control by a process that is often unreliable. By forfeiting direct control, it is perceived to be a valid way of maximizing outcomes. This illusion of control by proxy is a significant theoretical extension of the traditional illusion of control model. In one instance, a lottery pool at a company decides who picks the numbers and buys the tickets based on the wins and losses of each member. The member with the best record becomes the representative until they accumulate a certain number of losses and then a new representative is picked based on wins and losses.
Even though no member is truly better than the other and it is all by chance, they still would rather have someone with seemingly more luck to have control over them. In another real-world example, in the 2002 Olympics men’s and women’s hockey finals, Team Canada beat Team USA but it was later believed that the win was the result of the luck of a Canadian coin that was secretly placed under the ice before the game. The members of Team Canada were the only people who knew the coin had been placed there. One kind of laboratory demonstration involves two lights marked “Score” and “No Score”. Subjects have to try to control which one lights up. In one version of this experiment, subjects could press either of two buttons. Another version had one button, which subjects decided on each trial to press or not.
Ellen Langer’s research demonstrated that people were more likely to behave as if they could exercise control in a chance situation where “skill cues” were present. In another experiment, subjects had to predict the outcome of thirty coin tosses. The feedback was rigged so that each subject was right exactly half the time, but the groups differed in where their “hits” occurred. Some were told that their early guesses were accurate. Others were told that their successes were distributed evenly through the thirty trials. Afterwards, they were surveyed about their performance.