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Gambling Different theoretical perspectives and the rationality question revisited National lottery and scratch cards One year after its introduction in 1994, Lottery ticket sales reached £4.4 billion In 1995, over 60% of adults gambled every week Is the National Lottery good for us?

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Different theoretical perspectives and the rationality question revisited

national lottery and scratch cards
National lottery and scratch cards
  • One year after its introduction in 1994, Lottery ticket sales reached £4.4 billion
  • In 1995, over 60% of adults gambled every week
  • Is the National Lottery good for us?
  • Have we become a nation of gamblers?
  • How do people feel when they forget to renew their regular numbers?
  • Is the National lottery addictive? Are scratchcards addictive?
  • Does it lead to more “worrying” forms of gambling?
definition and types of gambling
Definition and types of gambling
  • “any situation in which people intentionally risk and stake money on a future event is gambling” (Griffiths, 1997)
  • “hard” versus “soft” gambling
    • event frequency
    • length of time between gambling and pay-out
    • pay-out ratio
  • starting to gamble vs. continue to gamble might be influenced by different factors
different types of gamblers
Different types of gamblers
  • Social, leisure, occasional gambler
  • Habitual gambler
  • Pathological gambler
  • DSM classification of pathological gambling
    • continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling
  • Prevalence of pathological gambling is 2-3 % of population (lower in locations with limited gambling opportunities)
  • Gender difference is roughly 2/3 men and 1/3 women
theoretical perspectives
Theoretical perspectives

Individual Internal

  • psychodynamic
  • physiological/biological
  • operant conditioning
  • personality
  • cognitive factors
  • social learning
  • beliefs & attitudes
  • features of the gambling situation
  • accessibility of gambling
  • socio-structural factors

Social External

examples and studies
Examples and studies
  • Cognitive factors
    • irrational thinking (e.g., Ladouceur et al., 1988)
    • illusion of control
      • treat chance events as controllable, but defined more generally as “expectancy of personal success inappropriately higher than the objective probability would warrant” (Langer, 1975)
      • Dice-throwing
      • Lottery tickets
    • near miss (2, 6, 13, 17 versus 2, 6, 13, 18)
      • can act as reinforcer (e.g., Griffiths, 1990)
social factors
Social factors
  • Social learning
    • Browne & Browne (1994)
    • focus on “observational learning” from models (parents and friends)
    • best predictive variables of student gambling (in order)
      • engaging in other forms of gambling
      • peer gambling
      • parental gambling
more integrative theories of gambling
More integrative theories of gambling
  • Acknowledgement that any single factor or single theory is unlikely to offer a full explanation
  • Jacob’s (1989) general theory of addiction, repeated behaviour provides relief from stress by creating dissociative state and altered state of identity
    • addiction due to a combination of
      • “abnormal” physiological resting state
      • deficiency in self-identity & self-esteem
integrative theories cont
Integrative theories cont.
  • Stein’s (1989) developmental approach
    • cognitive-developmental stage model
    • gamblers’ transition to formal-operational stage delayed, so find it hard to resist short-term reward
is gambling irrational
Is gambling irrational?
  • All gambling scenarios are set up in such a way that – in the long run – they invariably lead to financial loss
  • Gambling therefore appears clearly irrational from a financial utility-maximisation viewpoint
  • Most players are aware of this, yet continue to gamble
  • Is this behaviour irrational?
  • In decision-making, two assumptions about humans are evident
    • intuitive statistician, motivated by profit
    • irrational, erroneous thinker, beset with bias and focus on concrete information
  • Counter-argument from Lopes (1981): people think and act very differently in long-run vs. short-term decisions
playing blackjack keren wagenaar 1985
Playing blackjack(Keren & Wagenaar, 1985)
  • examines decision-making processes of

blackjack players in real setting (Amsterdam casino)

  • models of player
    • rational: “intuitive statistician”
    • irrational: biased, literal, sub-optimal behaviour
  • strategies
keren waagenar cont
Keren & Waagenar cont.
  • plays recorded and patterns compared to basic as “optimal” strategy
  • systematic deviations, serve players’ non-monetary goals
  • Conclusion: decision-process composed of two layers (rational and non-rational)
    • count, basic strategy, reduce loss or maximise win
    • fun, thrill, all-or-nothing, entertainment, staying in the game as long as possible, leisure
when people behave against their better judgement denes raj epstein 1994
When people behave against their better judgement…(Denes-Raj & Epstein, 1994)
  • Respondents’ task is to pick a red jelly bean (=win) and they choose between two bowls to pick from
  • Respondents prefer to draw from bowl with more beans

1red, 9 white beans

10red, 90 white beans

10% (or 5-9%)


Ratio bias (likelihood of 1 in x is low)
  • Ratio systematically lowered for larger bowl, ranging between 5-9%, evidence for sub-optimal choices, but limited as less than 20% would accept 5%
  • Sub-optimal choices higher on win trials
  • Self-reported engagement in gambling activities in everyday life were significantly correlated
  • CEST: cognitive-experiential self-theory
  • Joint operation of two systems: rational-analytical and experiential-intuitive
  • Two systems placed in conflict, experiential-intuitive wins out
questions to ponder
Questions to ponder


  • What are people’s motivations to gamble?
  • Are there other motivations than financial ones?
  • If yes, what are they? How can they be ordered or grouped together?
  • What do people expect to gain from gambling?
  • Are these expectations rational or irrational?
  • How can we think about meanings of rational & irrational?