Previous studies have shown that people feel lucky in situations that could easily have turned into something worse. The present investigation was designed to focus more closely on the comparative aspect of luck, using a linguistic approach (Study 1 and 2) as well as self‐reports of perceived luck accompanying selected emotional episodes (Study 3). The participants in Study 1 were asked to comment upon the difference between describing a state of affairs as “lucky” vs. “good”. The term “lucky“ was frequently seen to imply a comparison process, sometimes expressing gratitude (“It is lucky I have a family”) and at other times envy (“it is lucky you have a job”). This was confirmed in Study 2 where statements about self and other being lucky or unlucky were rated for implying comparison, gratitude, envy, concern, and impression of speaker. In Study 3, 60 students described situations in which they had felt grateful towards other people as well as towards “life in general”. Questionnaire answers revealed that they also had felt very lucky and had been thinking “it could have been different”. They also produced recollections of envy, which were rated to imply others’ good luck and own bad luck, which could easily have been interchanged (“it could have been merdquo;). It is concluded that counterfactual thoughts are decisive for the experiences of luck, gratitude, and envy.
Teigen, K. H. (1997). Luck, envy and gratitude: It could have been different. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 38(4), 313-323.