Slot Machine addiction linked to immersion in the game
Gamblers who feel like they enter into a trance while playing slot machines are more likely to have gambling problems, according to new research from the Centre for Gambling Research at UBC.
“There is potential for slot machines to be designed in a way that promotes more responsible use by disrupting the slot machine zone state,” said Clark. “Since static signs and stickers on slot machines are unlikely to distract immersed players, the messages should be eye-catching and as close as possible to the slots’ reels.”
Pathological gamblers have a stronger brain reaction to so-called near-miss events: losing events that come very close to a win. Neuroscientists of the Donders Institute at Radboud University show this in fMRI scans of twenty-two …
The study, published online this month in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, is one of the first to rigorously test the “slot machine zone” hypothesis — the idea that slot machines are preferred by problem gamblers because the fast, continuous style of play brings about an immersed state in which players can escape from feelings of stress, boredom or low mood.
“Slot machines are one of the most popular forms of gambling worldwide, but they are also the form most consistently linked to gambling addiction,” said Spencer Murch, the study’s lead author and a UBC psychology graduate student. “By understanding why slot machines are the preferred game for problem gamblers through this research, we have the potential to improve gambling policy and to design slot machines that promote more responsible play.”
For 30 minutes, participants played a real slot machine in the UBC casino lab. The machine had panels mounted on each side displaying moving shapes, such as white circles. Participants were told to press a button whenever they noticed a white circle turn into a red square. After playing, they were asked to report if they felt like they were in a trance or lost track of time while playing. The researchers also measured heart rate changes during play.
“This confirms there is indeed a link between gambling addiction and the so-called slot machine zone,” said Clark. “When the experienced slot machine gamblers played, we found they not only felt that they lost track of time and their surroundings, but they often failed to notice the shapes on the periphery of the machine.”
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