Why do some people have all the luck while others are perpetually unlucky? A professor at the University of Hertfordshire in England was determined to get to the scientific bottom of the phenomenon of luck. He placed ads asking for people who felt consistently lucky or unlucky to contact him, then gave respondents a newspaper and asked them to look through it and tell him how many photographs were inside. The professor had secretly placed a large message halfway through the newspaper reading, “Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $50.”

The message took up half of the page and was written in type that was more than two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it.

The bottom line: Unlucky people are generally more tense than lucky people, and this anxiety disrupts their ability to notice the unexpected.