Life is a lottery

This article originally appeared in The Guardian/Observer

How good are you at taking another person’s perspective? To find out, study the 10 lottery numbers below, then scroll down:

 3, 47, 14, 30, 37, 39, 11, 22, 41, 17




Photo via Flickr user Garry Knight:



Promise not to peek? OK, let’s go. Below is another set of numbers; some of which appeared in the original list, some of which did not. Your task is to pick the ones that did.


9, 3, 48, 30, 39, 5, 12, 8, 17, 22


I won’t tell you the answer in case you were tempted to peek down at this bit while doing the test, but I will tell you that you should have picked five numbers. Uncover the original list to see which ones.

If you got all of them right (or had no more than one miss or false alarm), it is likely that you are a highly empathetic person, and are particularly good at taking other people’s perspectives. In fact, a recent study conducted at the University of Münster in Germany found that the correlation between memory performance and a standard measure of perspective-taking was 0.7 (on a scale where 0 indicates no relationship, and 1 a perfect correspondence). Indeed, patients who have suffered memory impairments often lose their empathy too. Why should these two very different things be linked? Well, the first step in imagining how another person feels is remembering how you felt in similar situations. So this weekend, don’t forget to keep other people in mind.

Wagner, U., Handke, L., & Walter, H. (2015). The relationship between trait empathy and memory formation for social vs. non-social information. BMC Psychology3(1), 2.

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