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Explaining gambling. Bruna and Shaun. Biological. Initiation

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explaining gambling

Explaining gambling.

Bruna and Shaun.



  • Genetics – Shah et al and Black et all found pathological gambling genetic. This approach explains gambling as an addiction to adrenaline – the stress of awaiting the outcome of a bet releases the hormone. This adrenaline rush makes a person experience a ‘natural high’, and so more bets are placed to re-live this high.


  • Repeat gambling causes a tolerance to this adrenaline, this can lead to more frequent gambling, or gambling with more money.
  • There is some evidence that endorphins has released during gambling; these chemicals block pain and negative effects of stress.
  • Ignores other factors like environment (e.g.: genetics approach doesn’t consider the nurture side of the argument) = Reductionist.
  • The fact that this approach suggests a genetic pre-disposition makes it hard for rehabilitation.
  • Sensation seekers – research shows that horse gamblers have lower levels of this.
  • Genetic pre-disposition to impulsiveness.

This suggests gambling is driven by masochism – Bergler (58) proposed that gamblers gamble to lose in order to punish themselves. This reduces guilt that they feel from having rebelled against their parents – they identify with casino dealers etc. as their parental figures.

  • Lacks scientific evidence.

Gamblers are driven by faulty reasoning mechanisms. Decision making can be based on rational consideration rules – Wagenaar (88) identified 16 rules that gamblers use when making decisions, these include:

  • Illusion of control (gamblers think they are skilled; creates high expectations of likely outcome)
  • Representative bias (believe that the longer a losing steak lasts, the more likely a win will follow = gambler’s fallacy)
  • Illusory correlations (superstitions that they believe will help them success e.g.: blow on dice)
  • Fications on the absolute frequency of success (recall past wins and have a false belief on how often they win)
  • Ignores biological factors which research has shown to have an effect.
  • Takes into account individual differences