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Science Supports Theory of Near Misses Causing Gambling Addiction

By Chuckmonster on Tuesday, 11th May 2010 3:29pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 1


Slot Near Misses

How many times has this happened to you.... sitting at your favorite Triple Diamond Slot Machine, half way through both a pack of cigs and a row of White Russians up on the bumper when Bong! BONG! BUST! FUCK!

Of course, I never cash out... convinced by Spidey sense that this machine is definitely gonna hit, sooner rather than later.

According to a recent study in The Journal of Neuroscience, researchers have discovered that "near-misses" on slot machines or other devices trigger the same area of the brain which "reward activity" is wired (the "mid-brain"). Even though we lose, we get the same degree of excitement.

From Why Your Brain Loves Near-Misses In Gambling on Newsweek.com:

For their study, researchers recruited 20 volunteers. Their gambling habits ranged from buying a lottery ticket occasionally to making regular bets on sports. The volunteers played a computerized slot machine with two spinning wheels. When two pictures matched, the volunteer won 50 pence (about 75 cents). No match, no payoff. At the same time, the volunteers had their brain activity measured by fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging.

As expected, wins activated the reward pathways in the region called the midbrain. But so did a loss in which the second icon was right above or below the one that would have matched the icon on the first wheel—a near-miss. Since the bursts of dopamine indicated by the brain activity bring a sense of reward and keep people coming back for more, the fact that they are as intense as the bursts that follow a win suggests an explanation for the power of near-misses to keep people gambling. Although losing feels subjectively lousy, near-misses nevertheless spritz the brain with the dopamine that makes a behavior addictive.

I smell a lawsuit.

...slot-machine makers have known about it for decades. In a 2008 study, scientists analyzed how "slot machine manufacturers use virtual reels and a technique called 'award symbol ratio' to create a high number of near misses above and below the payline"—that is, so that the losing icon appears right above or below the winning cherries, lemons, or whatever. Thus we see yet again that when there is money to be made by understanding the brain, business beats science.

Next week they plan on studying the phenomenon known as "blue balls."


Comments & Discussion:

Mmmm... near misses.

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