In recent weeks, the weather has not been very autumn-like. Such heat at this time was not very common until now. And just like this, the surprising sunny weather caused some people to start taking more risks.
“It’s not about whether it’s sunny or cloudy. It’s about how much sunnier it is currently than has been common in recent history,” explains Ross Otto, a research psychologist at Canada’s McGill University, to The Washington Post. “People are in a good mood because things are literally sunnier than they expected,” he added.
Otto and his colleagues found that people are more likely to gamble when the weather is better, one of the most direct links that can be seen in risk-taking behavior.
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A 2016 study that analyzed lotteries and wagering in New York City found that residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds bought more tickets when the weather took a turn for the better — such as when a sunny day arrived at the end of a cloudy week. If it was cloudy, people bet significantly less.
Similar trends were confirmed in a follow-up study from 2018, which analyzed communication style on what was then Twitter, now the X network. Sunnier days led to better moods – and more gambling.
According to Otto, people’s tendency to take more risks can be explained by a concept called “prediction error”, i.e. a discrepancy between what a person expects and what actually happens. When it’s sunnier than expected, people tend to engage in behaviors associated with good mood, including risk-taking.
Another explanation is the “optimism bias”; the phenomenon in which people think that positive events are more likely than negative events. “You project how you’re feeling right now and what the weather is like into the future,” said Devin Pope, a professor of behavioral science and economics at the University of Chicago, who was not involved in Ott’s study.
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Optimism can influence not only whether we gamble, but also how and when we buy cars or houses. In 2012, Devin Pope found an optimism bias in people buying cars in different temperature zones. For example, more convertibles were sold on warm, cloudless days, even in unexpected locations.
Devin Pope reported that in Chicago, for example, more convertibles were sold on a nice, sunny October day than on a cloudy, rainy, typically fall October day.
According to some opinions, the optimistic tendency can influence the stock market to some extent. Sunnier weather encourages investors to take riskier decisions, according to a study published this summer.
“When the weather is hot, people are overly optimistic and willing to take more risks,” said study author Jia Liu, a professor of accounting and finance at the University of Portsmouth in England.
But other scientists are skeptical about the possibility to what extent the weather affects our mood or shopping patterns. Either way, if you’re going to make a big decision on an unexpectedly sunny day, try to sleep on it—or wait a few days before you actually decide.
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