A different type of ‘dog that didn’t bark’.

It may not have barked, but it sure had an impact on a number of people’s lives. The statue of a sitting dog in Todmorden featured in Darren Brown’s latest psychological spectacle that aired on Channel 4 last night, “The Secret of Luck”. In a pre-show blogcast he shares…

“What superstitious belief often amounts to is often mistaken feeling that we can control…almost a slightly megalomaniac thing…that we can control the world, that we can control events around us. If I don’t walk under that ladder, then the universe will conspire to make better things happen to me. Or if I wear my lucky socks, that my team will score a goal because the last time they scored a goal, I was wearing those socks. We just start to build associations between random events, things that have happened and that we’ve done, and things out in the world and we draw a cause and effect where there aren’t any…But if you do something that makes you feel luckier, that can then affect your behaviour. You can then go out a think more positively about something.”

Darren Brown gave multiple examples of this positive, sort of macro-placebo effect that the ‘Lucky Dog’ did appear to have on people who believed it. He did an experiment of taking a number of the townspeople to an arcade to play games of chance after touching the Lucky Dog. But he noted that impact was quite noticeable in how the self-belief affected their subsequent behaviour, “They were winning more. They were playing longer and concentrating harder.” And when staging an opportunity for a couple of townspeople to benefit exceptionally if they took the initiative, he commented, “By being open embracing the opportunity, she created her own good fortune.”

What does this have to do with this blog? Essentially, this site is about risk and how people approach it. As to failure, Derren Brown’s clever and elaborate ruse provides a very effective debunking of superstition by manufacturing one. A social experiment in the spirit of true scepticism. As to leadership and management, the experiment demonstrates both the upside benefits (leadership) of inspiring people with confidence even if contrived and artificial, but it also illustrates the downside risks (management) that such talismans have their limitations. Finally, as to black box complexity, the cause-and-effect of the random events of ordinary living are perhaps the biggest black box with which we operate every day. The problem-solving human in us is always looking for connections and patterns in the tapestry of confusion thrown our way and false readings are just as prevalent, if not more so, than positive ones.


Todmorden Lucky Dog