Beginner’s luck is a well-known and yet little-understood concept that we have all experienced at least once in our lives. Have you ever played a card game for the first time and won right away or placed an unprecedented risky bet on something only to be rewarded? That’s beginner’s luck, and here we’ll be looking into two theories that may finally explain how it works.

Flow Theory

Otherwise known as the Theory of Flow, this concept was popularized by American-Hungarian psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályiback in 1975. The main idea behind this theory is that when beginners first start doing something they really enjoy they enter an optimal mental state that helps them achieve hyper-focus and engage more fully. If the activity they are pursuing hits the right level of challenging without being outside the beginner’s skill level, then a deep form of learning will take place.

For example, say a beginner has logged into William Hill Vegas for the first time to have a go at Mayfair Blackjack. They understand the rules and know the aim of the game but have never played before. They quickly notice they are enjoying the game thoroughly, with no focus being spent on what happens if they lose or whether they should be using a different strategy. They’re having fun and would quite like to get a hand totaling 21, but that’s it. As blackjack has a small learning curve, the game is also well within their skill level, and so they can also learn while playing.

All of these elements combined – the fun, the engagement, the hyper-focus, the moderate challenge and the deep learning state – result in the Flow Theory or beginner’s luck. The Mayfair Blackjack player is not only channelling all of their energy into the game, but they may even be more likely to win than a seasoned blackjack player who may be mentally over complicating the play or experiencing anxiety. The fact enjoyment has overtaken creating complications has enabled a flow of luck to surge through the beginner, resulting in a win.

Sparrow Theory

Several students at Tel Aviv University in Israel decided to conduct a study to oversee how sparrows made decisions regarding food foraging. There were 60 sparrows in total, all let loose in a plot of land divided into 2 sides. One side had a large number of holes, each filled with a tiny bit of food and then covered back over with a thin layer of soil. This was the side that represented low-risk, low-reward. The other side had just as many holes but only a few of them actually had food inside them. The holes that did have food had plenty of it, but the sparrows were far less likely to find them – thus this side representing high-risk, high-reward.

When the sparrows were first released onto the plot of land, the choices they made seemed completely random. However, as time went on it became clear that the birds were making very specific choices. Some of the sparrows (7 to be exact) opted for the high-risk, high-reward side, but all the rest decided to stick with the low-risk section of land. In regard to beginner’s luck, the 7 risk takers represent the beginners who take a chance and win right away, while the rest of the sparrows represent experts who have learned to take low-risks for low-rewards.

A real-world example of Sparrow Theory can often be seen in stock markets. Seasoned stock traders have experienced enough to know that they’d rather risk as little as possible to get a reward. Meanwhile, beginners can occasionally enter the market, take a huge risk and see returns. High-risks reap high rewards, and while it may not work out all the time, it is often the beginners who are willing to make take that risk.

The best thing about these theories is that they suggest beginner’s luck is something you can achieve even if you’ve done an activity before. Really, you just have to work on removing any over-complications and take a few more risks in order to see higher rewards.

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