Shattering the illusion of control: Multi‐shot versus single‐shot gambles

Jonathan J. Koehler*, Brian J. Gibbs, Robin M. Hogarth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


The illusion of control refers to a phenomenon whereby people believe their chances of success at a task are greater than would be warranted by objective analysis. This article raises two questions. First, how robust is the illusion of control? Second, how might the illusion be ‘shattered?’ Previous experimental demonstrations involved situations that can be likened to unique or single‐shot gambles. If, however, the phenomenon is robust, it should occur in repeated or multi‐shot gambles in which the outcome depends on a series of gambles involving the same underlying random process. It should also appear in single‐shot gambles that are framed so as to superficially resemble multi‐shot gambles. We label this the strong illusion of control hypothesis. On the other hand, because people have a better appreciation of probabilistic concepts in tasks they are able to represent as relative frequencies, the introduction of a multi‐shot or ‘pseudo‐multi‐shot’ context might cue people to the random nature of the task, thereby shattering the illusion. The weak illusion of control hypothesis holds that the illusion of control will occur in single‐shot but not in multi‐shot or pseudo‐multi‐shot gambles. Two studies are reported that support the weak hypothesis. Alternative explanations are considered and implications are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-191
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Behavioral Decision Making
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 1 1994


  • Illusion of control
  • Randomness
  • Relative frequencies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Strategy and Management


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