A recent study on problem gambling by the University of British Columbia in Vancouver came up with some insights that may not be news to anyone who’s spent time with problem gamblers. Turns out, they’re don’t make a lot of date-driven decisions and generally don’t think outside of the moment they’re living in.

The report, titled “Gambling disorder is associated with reduced sensitivity to expected value during risky choice“, studied the actions of 48 known problem gamblers and compared them to the actions of a control group comprised of 35 people who can handle their gambling without issue.

In the experiment, both groups were asked to choose various lottery play options. The twist was that some options offered much better odds than others, but with lower payouts. You can probably guess which option the problem gamblers chose.

One insight that researchers gleaned came from the observation that those who grappled with problem gambling were more sensitive to feedback based on previous decisions than those who gambled without issue. This is an insight that is already well-known to anyone who has spent time at a roulette wheel anywhere in the world.

Problem gamblers seem completely unaware that each spin of the wheel is an individual action that is not influenced by the previous spin. This is evidenced by the number of roulette players who feel that a red or black number is “due to hit anytime now.” Scholar’s refer to this as the “gambler’s fallacy” and it’s a sure-fire method for losing all your money.

Researchers say that understanding, and quantifying, how problem gamblers react to various situations is critical for combating problem gambling as a whole.


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