Gambling and Its Psychological Effects


Gamling is a common and widespread form of entertainment, but it can also be a risky behaviour that can become harmful or addictive. Researchers in the field of psychology are exploring this phenomenon in order to better understand its role in decision-making and its potential impact on health.

How Gambling Games Are Designed to Promote Over-estimation of Chances

In gambling games, there are several features that encourage gamblers to over-estimate their chances of winning. These include the presence of near-misses, personal choice and the illusion of control. These effects are crucial to the maintenance of continued play, as they allow a player to convince themselves that they can exert skill over an outcome that is actually defined by chance.

These effects are facilitated by the fact that gambling games harness a brain reward system that evolved to respond to situations in which response feedback is useful for improving the precision of motor responses, or for predicting future outcomes. The response system is inappropriately activated when gambling occurs, resulting in cognitive distortions that can lead to harmful consequences for the individual.

Research has shown that a significant part of this reward system is located in the striatum, a region that is involved in reward circuits that are activated by natural reinforcers and drugs of abuse. Dr Clark is working to understand the neural basis of these processes, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) at the Wolfson Brain Imaging Centre in Cambridge.

When a person plays a game of chance, their brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes them feel happy and excited. This effect is heightened by the fact that people who gamble often lose money. This can make it hard for them to stop gambling when they are experiencing negative feelings, like rage and anxiety.

Consequently, they continue to play even after losing large sums of money. This behavior is called gambling addiction and it can lead to financial problems, family breakups, and other problems.

Psychological Mechanisms That Drive Problem Gambling

Behavioral models of gambling addiction are based on the idea that gamblers are motivated to engage in risky behavior in order to stimulate an underactive reward system. These mechanisms are similar to those that have been observed in other addictions, such as drug addiction.

These models have been widely accepted in the field of behavioral science, but they have a long way to go before they are fully understood. A more complete understanding of the psychological processes that underlie gambling is essential to developing effective and reliable treatment strategies.

There are two dominant approaches to gambling studies: the cognitive and psychobiological. The cognitive approach is often rooted in a naturalistic model of gambling, and relies on non-gamblers or infrequent gamblers as test subjects. In contrast, psychobiological studies have typically used pathological gamblers as test subjects and are more firmly grounded in a medical model of gambling disorder. These studies have also often utilised laboratory-based testing, which can be less ecologically valid.