Psychology of Gambling Behavior: What to Know?

Gambling is technically a leisure activity that can put people on an adrenaline rush as excitement and fear both runs in their veins while waiting for the results. Many people gamble at a lower expense as it offers free bets and minimal losses. However, some put everything on the line. It does not matter whether it is their own homes or their businesses. They always believe they will surely win. What drives people to have such kind of behavior? Here is what you need to know about gambling behavior:

Reinforcement Plays a Vital Role

Gambling reinforcement

In Psychology, there are experiments to Laboratory mice testing Operant conditioning—the reward and punishment reinforcement. Laboratory mice do not have the idea that food will go out from a specific place until they can press the button. The mice will keep repeating the same behavior because the food keeps coming out. However, if there is no food coming out, extinction may occur—the mice will no longer press the button. That is because no food is available.

Similarly, gambling behavior exhibits correlational similarity to that of operant conditioning experiments. You will get hooked to keep playing once you experience winning streaks for a long time. You might lose a little amount of money, but you will not stop immediately because you always believe you will win more. This behavior can be pathological in the long run if the person can no longer control how and what you spend on gambling.

Near-win phenomenon

Gambling near win

You can agree that someone is more likely to engage in gambling for a long time if he keeps winning. However, researches have shown that it is not only the winning streak that contributes to risky behavior but also what they call the near-win phenomenon. You will continue to play many instances because of this situation—thinking that you just missed something and that you are nearly about to win. It usually happens on roulette balls near the adjacent side or a slot machine with one missed pay-line.

Since the person believes he is about to win, the extinction rate decreases—giving more adrenaline to the person to engage in gambling. Every near-win situation happens to every gambler unconsciously. There is reinforcement by winning, and in the same way, a missed chance to win is not likely to discourage them from trying again.

Big-win Hypothesis

Gambling big win

If you are a gambler and you won something big for the first time, you are most likely to create an unrealistic expectation that such win will happen again. Regardless of how much you spent to attain bigger winnings, you overlook the losses because you can hit another win.

The big-win hypothesis explains why some people develop pathological behavior towards gambling. However, since you won a lot, extinction comes early when the gains are no longer as significant as it appears in the first time.

The gambling industry is patronized by many people aiming to win more and spend more—beating the odds to win. On the other hand, it is a must to understand what drives these people's behavior to any extent, so you can also be aware of how you may work on it once faced with the same situation.

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