No one likes to lose – even those who are addicted to gambling. But still they kept betting. If the bookie always wins, why don’t you put your money in? People who are addicted to gambling say that, even if their losses pile up, there is a feeling that brings them back to the card table or slot machine.
“I like to gamble all the time,” said a former gambler who recovered to Scientific American in 2013. “I love it — I love the feel I get.” And recently, a Wall Street executive admitted that he scammed his family, friends and others out of $100 million to finance his hobby.
“It was only one way that I could earn money to fulfill my gambling addiction,” he told the court. But if someone loses money – perhaps even loses a job or home as a result of gambling – how can that sense of satisfaction outweigh their sacrifice?
The first thing to remember is, people gamble not just because of the prospect of winning. Mark Griffiths, a psychologist at Nottingham Trent University who specializes in addictive behavior says that gamblers have a lot of motivation for their habit.
In a survey of 5,500 gamblers, the prospect of “winning big money” was the strongest factor. But then followed by “because it’s fun” and “because it’s fun”.
“Even when you lose a gamble, your body still produces adrenaline and endorphins,” he says.
“People buy entertainment.”
This finding is supported by a 2009 study by researchers from the University of Stanford in California, which found that about 92% of people have “lost boundaries” that they cannot let go of.
However, the fact that they lost money after visiting a casino, for example, did not affect their enjoyment of the experience.
“People seem to be quite content with small wins, and they will tolerate small losses,” said one of the study’s authors, Sridhar Narayanan, at the time.
“They realize that in the long run, they are going to lose rather than win.” And for a while, losing can prompt a positive response to winning. This is because gamblers’ expectations of winning change when they lose constantly.
Robb Rutledge, a neuroscientist at University College, London, and colleagues conducted an experiment on 26 subjects whose brains were scanned as they made a series of choices, each of which could lead to a definite or an uncertain outcome – a gamble.
Participants were also asked to rate their happiness scale after each turn or after three guesses. And a similar experiment — without brain scans — was performed on more than 18,000 participants on a smartphone app, The Great Brain Experiment .
Interesting findings, the team found that when participants had less expectation that they would win, their response to getting what they deserved increased.
This was later evidenced by both the subjects’ reports that they felt happy and the data from the fMRI scan. These scans showed increased activity in areas of the brain connected to dopamine nerves.
Dopamine, a complex neurotransmitter, could in this case be linked to changes in emotional state.
“If people lose a lot, it will lower their expectations, and it will increase their excitement when they win,” said Rutledge.
This taste alone is tempting enough. “If some bad things happen to you in a row then your expectations go down – but then you get something good, and you’ll probably be happier,” he says.
“Even at this point, you should be gone.”
But can tools such as gambling machines actively manipulate? Griffiths wrote about the signs or clues that electronic game machines give players.
Not much is known about the design of these machines on player behavior, but, for example, many machines and casinos use red or something similar – which is considered more stimulating.
Then there are sounds and voices. Griffiths considered the possibility that the mockery of a machine that featured the antagonists of The Simpsons affected the player.
For example, when a player loses, Mr Smithers’ character says, “You’re fired!”
“In line with hypotheses that support cognitive frustration and regret theories, this could make gambling game tools more tempting,” Griffiths wrote in one paper.
One of the key factors in getting addicted to gambling is how often a player can bet.
Because the availability of opportunities to gamble is related to the level of problem gambling addiction in a society, Griffiths argues that it is the amount of reward that can be awarded – and not the actual reward or even the type of gambling – that gives rise to pathological gamblers.
Games and machines are sometimes designed to keep players interested by offering substitute prizes, such as extra credits or – after a loss – a greater chance of winning than usual the next time around.
“If you give small rewards that are not just monetary, then people will still respond,” said Griffiths.
And interestingly, there are examples of cases where gamblers develop “shadow-skills” as a justification for earning those possible rewards.
Griffiths gave the example of a game engine daftar idn poker in the UK which was designed with the adaptive logic in mind that the device would deliver more than the consumer was given over a period of time, and after that the device would return to the normal system.
This means that some players will try to find (or “skim”) machines that have not hit the jackpot, hoping they will be there when the machine hits the jackpot.
All of these research findings conclude that gambling is not always about winning, but rather the process of betting – and the other factors surrounding it that make it fun.
Although gambling addiction cannot be explained simply – sometimes there are many reasons that lead to addiction in a person – but it is certainly interesting to see how the fun is related to the structure and style of the game played.
And even when gambling isn’t a problematic obsession, it’s still entertaining for those who go home empty pockets.
So, bet on red or black? But that doesn’t seem to matter.