Scratch cards, slot machines, casinos, lotteries, online games: Gambling opportunities are bigger than ever. For most people, gambling is relaxation or a night out. But for a small group, well, it’s a small group. There are an estimated 80,000 people in the Netherlands, but that’s not all. I’m addicted. What’s happening in the minds of gambling addicts? What makes slots so addictive? And aren’t we all a little addicted?
What makes slot machines so addictive?
When thinking about gambling, you probably think about casinos, roulette, and poker. But don’t forget the slot machine. An estimated 80% of Las Vegas casino profits are ubiquitous and responsible. It is accessible and often in the lower social class, especially in the area of women.
These machines are well organized. Anthropologist Natasha Dow Schul explains that the so-called Messiah Feren plays a central role here. You often win something, but it doesn’t make up for the money you’re wasting. If you deposit 40 euros, 30 euros will be refunded. The machine beeps and flashes like you’re trying to win, but in the meantime, you’re really down $ 10.
What happens in my head when I play?
Scientists group gambling under the same heading as substance and alcohol abuse. Whether you overuse cocaine, whiskey, or slot machines, they all look very similar in your brain.
These happiness chemicals are also released by entertainment gamblers, but at another time, addiction researcher Anneke Goudriaan explains. Leisure gamblers experience euphoria during the win, but in gambling addicts, the reward substances in their brain are released during the anticipation of the win. In the seconds or minutes before they win or lose.
Now the chance of winning, and therefore the anticipation, is almost always present in gambling. As a result, the reward system in the brain is continuously in operation, and as a result of this (over)stimulation builds up a tolerance over time: you become numb, as it were. The gambler is going to take greater risks to feel the same reward.
Is the Gambler a collection of trained pigeons?
People like to think of themselves as free-willed and independent spirits, but wise rewards and punishments are a great way to guide people’s actions in a particular direction. This so-called conditioning originates from a behavioral psychologist led by BF Skinner.
The tests Skinner performed on pigeons in the middle of the last century are well known. Every time he feeds an animal’s behavior, they are more likely to repeat the behavior. The reverse is also true. The more often you punish, the less chance you have.
In a nutshell
– Slot machines tempt you to gamble as long as possible with false prizes and other tricks. The potential for addiction is due to three factors: you play alone, the game moves very fast, and it continues.
– The addicted gambler’s brain works differently than the recreational gambler’s brain. You can see it in certain areas of the brain. Addictives experience rewards in anticipation of victory, not during the victory.
– Animals (and thus humans) are often easy to condition, 20th-century behavioral psychologists have shown. Irregular and unpredictable rewards make people play longer.