High hopes turn poker machine players into problem gamblers

Aug 14, 2007

There are around 300,000 problem gamblers in Australia. For gambling researchers, one of the biggest questions is why so many people seem unable to control their gambling behaviour, despite the harmful impact on their lives.

A PhD study conducted at the University of Western Sydney has revealed that problem gamblers have a higher and more enduring hope of winning than other people. It is this persistently high hope that clouds their judgement and leads to the impairment of their self control.

Dr Morten Boyer, a PhD graduate from the School of Psychology at UWS, says an inherent characteristic of gambling is that, despite the very small chance of winning, there is still always a chance.

"For problem gamblers, the perpetual, albeit small chance of winning, translates into a high level of hope which makes it seem irrational to stop feeding money into the machine," says Dr Boyer.

In this unique study, Dr Boyer conducted a series of in-depth interviews with regular electronic gaming machine players about their emotional experiences and expectations during a gaming session.

While previous gambling studies have considered problem gamblers to have inflated expectations of winning or illusions of control, the UWS study found that problem gamblers are aware of the extreme odds, as well as the financial implications of losing.

"This may be why the warning labels on poker machines which state the unlikelihood of winning are ineffective as a preventative measure," says Dr Boyer.

"At best, these labels may deter non-problem gamblers who have lower and less pervasive hopes of winning. At worst, they may in fact inadvertently promote hope by reminding gamblers of the ongoing possibility of winning."

Dr Boyer says the study helps to improve our understanding of gambling behaviour.

He says more research is needed to fully understand the experiences of hope during gambling; only then can a truly effective means of managing gambling behaviour be developed.

"It is interesting that hope, which is generally regarded as such a helpful construct associated with positive outcomes and success, can be so harmful when it comes to gambling," he says.

"Nevertheless, if problem gamblers are ever to beat the habit, their hope of winning must be reduced significantly."

Source: University of Western Sydney

Explore further: Researchers use computer-based treatment for children with anxiety

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Google searches hold key to future market crashes

6 hours ago

A team of researchers from Warwick Business School and Boston University have developed a method to automatically identify topics that people search for on Google before subsequent stock market falls.

Recommended for you

New book examines the known and unknown about OCD

20 hours ago

A new and thorough overview of a disturbing behavioural condition that will affect 2.3 per cent of the UK population in their lifetime has been written by University of Sussex researchers.

Ibuprofen relieves women's hurt feelings, not men's

22 hours ago

(Medical Xpress)—For years, researchers have known that physical pain relievers such as ibuprofen can also help ease emotional pain, but new research suggests that ibuprofen has contrasting effects on men ...

User comments : 0