Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


41st Annual Convention; San Antonio, TX; 2015

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #69
CE Offered: BACB
Experimental Analysis of Gambling Behavior
Saturday, May 23, 2015
3:00 PM–4:50 PM
006D (CC)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Kyle Rowsey (Southern Illinois University Carbondale)
Discussant: Jeffrey N. Weatherly (University of North Dakota)
CE Instructor: Kyle Rowsey, M.S.

Current behavior analytic experimental research suggests that gambling is maintained by a combination of reinforcement schedules and verbal behavior. While behavior analytic research has focused on the broad implications of these variables, little is known about the idiosyncrasies of factors such as when high win rates occur during a gambling event, response effort, and persistence of play during repeated forced-choices. Similarly, recent structural changes in slot machine reels, particularly losses disguised as wins, are under researched and therefore not understood behavior analytically. Furthermore, little is known about losses disguised as wins when compared to other structural differences, including appetitive or aversive sounds. Therefore, this symposium will provide empirical support for how response-based interventions, structural alterations, and various win rates may impact gambling behavior, across a range of gambling behaviors including selection, persistence, magnitude, and self-report during gambling tasks. Implications of these findings and directions for future research will be discussed.

Instruction Level: Basic
Keyword(s): gambling, translational research
Target Audience:

Psychologists, behavior analysts, practitioners, and graduate students.

Learning Objectives: Forthcoming.
Gambling Persistence: Repeated Choice as an Abolishing Operation
SETH W. WHITING (Yale University), Karl Gunnarsson (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: The present study investigated the effects of a potential choice-based intervention component on gambling persistence to determine if repeated choosing would function as an abolishing operation and reduce slot machine play. Thirty adults were exposed to either a brief choice intervention or a video control task. In the choice intervention, participants responded to 35 gambling-related forced-choice items, each with two alternatives from which to make a selection. The control group watched a video of a gambler playing a slot machine in a casino. Following the initial task, all players were then allowed to allocate play among five available slot machines until he or she wished to cash out. The results demonstrated that those who were required to make repeated choices played the slot machines for significantly fewer trials and engaged with the slot machines for significantly less time. Given the large number of choice alternatives present in a casino environment, future investigation into how casinos and games are organized to facilitate choice and interventions to counteract such facilitation during play may yield effective technologies in further reducing undesirable gambling persistence.
Increasing Response Effort Impacts Wager Sizes of Slot Machine Gamblers
KARL GUNNARSSON (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Kyle Rowsey (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Two studies were conducted to investigate the effect of response effort on wager sizes. The first study investigated the effects of the physical location of the “Bet Max” wager button on a slot machine in 29 recreational gamblers. Distance from the Spin button varied across three groups of gamblers ranging from 9.52mm to 111.12mm. The second study was a replication of the first where four subjects were presented to all three conditions of the previous study. The results indicated a change in bet allocation in both studies (significant in study 1), mainly, greater distance between the Max Bet button and Spin button resulted in fewer responses allocated to the Max Bet button. Implications of the results are discussed in regards to response effort, and gambling device design.
Evaluating the Effects of Losses Disguised as Wins and Auditory Input on Gambling Behavior
KRISTIN ROBINSON (Saint Louis University), Alyssa N. Wilson (Saint Louis University)
Abstract: Losses disguised as wins (LDWs) describe a phenomenon in which an individual wins back an amount less than what was originally wagered. Although LDWs result in a financial loss, gamblers often inaccurately treat these outcomes as wins, leading to sustained slot-machine play despite continued losses. The current study examined the effects of modified auditory stimuli that accompany LDWs with recreational and at-risk gamblers during a slot machine task. Researchers measured rate of play, amount wagered, and participant self-report of the occurrence of wins based on the auditory stimuli presented with each LDW condition. During baseline, participants were exposed to a standard play condition with common LDW auditory feedback. During treatment, rapid alteration between a no-sound condition, a negative auditory input condition, and a preferred auditory feedback condition were presented. Data collected to date suggest that participant rate of play and self-report of outcome vary depend upon the auditory feedback provided. Implications for treatment and future directions for research will be discussed.
An Evaluation of the Effects of Decreasing Win Rate on Slot Machine Gambling
MATTHEW L. JOHNSON (Southern Illinois University Carbondale), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: With the variable win rate of most games of chance, it is important to understand how these variable win rates may contribute to the persistence of gambling behavior. Twenty undergraduate rehabilitation students (all women) were recruited and participated for extra course credit. The apparatus written in Microsoft Visual Basic.NET presented participants with a concurrent choice between two different slot machines; one machine with symbols and one machine without symbols. During forced choice trials and the first 50 choice trials, the payout of the two machines was equated at p = .5. For the remaining 50 choice trials, probability of winning on the machine with symbols was systematically decreased by p = .1 every ten trials until there was no probability of winning for the last ten trails. On average, participants showed a preference for the machine with symbols during choice trials when win rate was equated; allocating significantly more than 50% of responding to this machine. A repeated measure ANOVA confirmed response allocation to the symbol machine only significantly decreased in the final two conditions (.1 and EXT) and did not decrease significantly across any other conditions p < .05. Therefore, high early win rates may contribute to gambling persistence.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh