Motivations and Cognitive Biases - Holtgraves

Gambling and Gambling Activities:
Motivations and Cognitive Biases
Thomas Holtgraves
Dept. of Psychological Science
Ball State University
• Gambling is a complex activity that
takes many different forms
• Understanding gambling (popularity;
pathological gambling) requires an
understanding of its different forms
and different underlying motivations
Proposed DSM V changes
• Change from Impulse-Control Disorders Not
Elsewhere Classified to Substance-Related
Disorders which will be renamed Addiction
and Related Disorders.
• Eliminate illegal acts (#8) as criteria.
• Need 5 out of 9 criteria
Gambling Definition
• Gambling - wagering something of material
value on an event with an uncertain outcome.
Ancient and Universal Activity
Types of Gambling
Craps, 21, slots, keno
Sports betting (football, basketball)
Race track (horse, dog)
Internet (everything)
Stock market
Differences between Games
Skill vs. chance (Poker vs. ‘21’ vs. roulette)
Speed of play (Slots vs. keno)
Speed of outcome (Slots vs. sports betting)
Social vs. Nonsocial (Slots vs. craps/21)
Availability (Internet vs. live casinos)
Wager Limits (Lotteries vs. Casino 21)
Expected Value (Craps vs. slots)
Why People Gamble
• Surveys (Lloyd et al., 2010;) of self-reported
reasons for gambling generally indicate:
– Make money
– Excitement
– Escape
– Social
Gambling Cognitions: What are
People Thinking?
• People report gambling to make money
• But negative expectancy (for most games)
• Cognitive Distortions
– Humans poor at processing probability
– Features of gambling games foster distortions
• Warning labels on slot machines?
Gambling Cognitions
• Representativeness (Kahneman &
– Judge probability of event based on
similarity to parent population (and ignore
other relevant factors such as base rates)
• Gambling manifestations: perceptions of
Gambling Cognitions
• Conceptions of Randomness
• Lottery Choices (Holtgraves & Skeel, 1992) in
Indiana Pick 3 lottery:
– Which lottery number would you prefer to play?
• 444 492 392 558 150
Lab studies
Indiana lottery numbers played
Gambling Cognitions
Gambling Sequences
Outcome Sequence (Metzger, 1985):
– Roulette sequence: BBRBBBBBBBB
– Which outcome is most likely on next trial?
– Gambler’s Fallacy
Won/Loss Sequence
– Blackjack sequence: LLWLLLLLLLLLL
– Hot hand: WWLWWWWW
Empirical casino evidence for both (Croson & Sundali, 2005)
Gambling Cognitions
• Near Miss
– Unsuccessful outcome but close to win
• 2 cherries on machine
• lottery number is one off
• Blackjack; 19 against dealer 20
– In terms of probability shouldn’t matter
• Slot machines: Near misses result in longer play (Cote
et al., 2003), but only up to a point (Kassinove & Schare,
Near Miss – Neurological Correlates
• Neurological effects (Clark et al., 2009; Chase
& Clark, 2010).
– fMRI imaging while playing simple slot machine
– Near-miss trials activate same midbrain regions
(primarily ventral striatum) as win
– SOGS (PG measure) correlated with activation for
near miss but not win
Gambling Cognitions
• Disordered cognitions may be related to
gambling pathology
Near miss and neural activation
Chasing (major behavioral criteria for PG)
partly reflects the Gambler’s fallacy
PG more likely to display distorted cognitions
(Griffiths, 1994).
Belief in gambler’s fallacy correlated with
CPGI scores (Holtgraves, 2009)
Different Games – Different Cognitions
Some Games Prompt Different Distortions
• Self-serving attributions (Miller & Ross, 1975):
– Internal attributions for success (i.e., skill)
– External attributions for failure (i.e., luck)
• Gambling: allows one to maintain positive selfview regardless of outcome
– Especially likely for games involving both luck and skill
(e.g., poker; 21)
– Less likely with ‘low skill’ games (but, choosing which
slot machine to play)
Gambling Cognitions
• Illusion of Control (Langer, 1975):
Overestimate control over chance outcomes
– Games with perceived skill element (e.g.,
causality; choice) contribute to illusion of control
– Contributes to gambling persistence and wagering
Gambling Cognitions
Illusory Gambling Skill Elements
Examples: Craps, 21, slots
Evidence: Crap tables: Higher
wagers when shooting (Davis et al., 2009)
Examples: Lottery, Keno, etc.
Evidence: Horses/Lotteries
Mood Based Motivations
Blaszcynski et al., 1986; 2002.
Two major arousal-based motivators:
Reduce arousal
– Induce dissociation (escape)
Low skill, nonsocial, activities (slots)
Increase arousal
– Seek excitement
High skill, social, activities (craps)
Gambling Motivation Differences –
Empirical Research
• Factor Structure (Loadings) for Frequency of Engaging in
Different Gambling Activities (Holtgraves, 2009)
Sport select
Horse racing
Factor 1
Factor 2
Gambling and Personality –
Differences between Games
• Relatively little evidence
• Slowo (1997). Australia
– Casino games – Higher on arousal seeking,
excitement seeking, and activity than pokermachine players
Gambling and Personality: Gender
PG: 2:1 Male:Female ratio
PG: Different time course for males/females
Mood motivations:
Excitement for males
Escape for females
Social Motivations
• Social interaction opportunities (3rd in list;
after money and excitement; Neighbors et al.,
• Allow for self-presentation
– Display character (Goffman)
– Winners and graceful losers perceived more
positively (Holtgraves, 1987)
• Risky Shift – Greater risk in presence of others
(Blascovich et al., 1970).
Gambling Differences
Games differ in affordances
Are Some Games More Addicting than
Is the playing of some games more likely
to result in PG?
Are PG more likely to play certain games?
Gambling Differences
• Electronic Games (slots, poker, etc.)
• Crack cocaine of gambling?
– Speed of play, low stakes, low skill, availability,
lights and sounds (availability of wins; additional
reinforcers; social recognition)
– Breen & Zimmerman (2002). Survey of PG:
Machine gamblers progress to PG in 1.08 years
(vs. 3.58 yrs. for others).
Electronic Games
• PG favorite game: Highest (9.7%) for EGM
(Productivity Commission, 1999).
• PGSI (continuous PG measure) as criterion;
frequency of slots/VLT largest beta weight
(Holtgraves, 2009).
• However, conversion rate not greater for
Internet Gambling
• High availability (but legal issues in U.S.)
• Anonymity
• Evidence is mixed
– Canadian data (Holtgraves, 2009) – high
conversion rate for internet, but low association
with PGSI
• Gambling is complex and multi-faceted
• Multiple motivations and distortions
• Games differ in affordances and likelihood of
• Different routes to PG
• More U.S. research needed
The following are the diagnostic criteria from the DSM-IV for 312.31
(Pathological Gambling): Impulse Control Disorder
A. Persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behavior as
indicated by at least five of the following:
1. is preoccupied with gambling (e.g., preoccupied with reliving past
gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, or
thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)
2. needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to
achieve the desired excitement
3. has repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop
4. is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
5. gambles as a way of escaping from problems or of relieving a
dysphoric mood (e.g., feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety,
6. after losing money gambling, often returns another day in order to
get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
7. lies to family members, therapist, or others to conceal the extent of
involvement with gambling
8. has committed illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft, or
embezzlement, in order to finance gambling
9. has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational
or career opportunity because of gambling
10. relies on others to provide money to relieve a desperate financial
situation caused by gambling
B. The gambling behavior is not better accounted for by a Manic

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