Mega Millions fever: Why we go nuts over lotto

Most of the country has Mega Millions fever – and for good reason: The winning ticket is worth $540 million.

But why do we get so excited about playing the lottery? One psychologist weighs in.

Mike McKee, a psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, says as long as you can afford a ticket – the unpredictability of it all is considered healthy fun.

“Everybody I know has fun talking about what would you do with it? What would you do with the money? Would you stay in the job? Would you bail out right away? Where would you go? What would you buy? What do you do with everybody knocking on the door?” McKee said.
“It creates conversation above the weather, above the ballgames, and it does have a rush because there is a chance. It may be a very small chance, but you could win.”

McKee said we like playing the lottery for the same reasons we like to play sports or video games – the rewards are unpredictable.

And – when we hear stories of people who won big – we like to think, “That could be me.”

Some people like to think, “My numbers haven’t turned up in a long time, so I’m due,” but McKee said that’s not the healthiest approach.

He advises lotto players to keep things in perspective, while having fun.

“It’s going to be hard for people to resist. So, keep it small,” McKee said. “I mean, your odds don’t go up a whole lot if you spend $20 compared to a buck. If you don’t have much money, buy a ticket and let it go at that. It’s a long-shot you’re buying.”

And your best bet? Don’t plan your retirement around winning.