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5 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Psychology of Gambling

October 26, 2021 293 0
5 Mind-Blowing Facts About the Psychology of Gambling

Regardless of your social status, gambling addiction can happen to you. Gambling for fun is okay until it turns into an unhealthy obsession, potentially leading to grave consequences. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing online or at a physical casino. Addiction can cause financial ruin, interfere with work, and even harm your relationships.

Neuroscience research has revealed that gambling addiction manifests patterns similar to that of drug addiction. Likewise, medical attention can be necessary. While experiencing gambling problems, you may do things you never thought you would. That includes racking up debts or, even worse, resorting to stealing to satisfy gambling desires. 

If you want to discover more about the psychology of gambling, you’ve come to the right article. Here we’ll answer a bunch of questions. What causes gambling addiction? How do gamblers think? How does gambling affect the brain? How do you help someone with a gambling addiction? All those and other psychology of gambling stuff you might want to know.

What Is the Psychology of Gambling?

As you already know, gambling can be highly addicting. And those psychological processes contribute to the increase in addiction. Near-misses push you to play more than you planned and make larger bets. Eventually, problematic winning expectations cause “loss chasing” to compensate for your losses. 

Over the years, experts have done extensive studies on the psychology of gambling. They spent long hours determining how psychological processes influence gambling behavior. According to the Illinois Institute for Addiction Recovery, gambling addiction has four phases:

  1. Winning – This stage often starts with a massive win that gives you excitement and a positive perception of gambling. Here, you’ll go into thinking that you’re invincible and your winning streak will last forever. As a result, you start shedding more money and time. 
  2. Losing – As you get more drawn to gambling, your behavior changes. You’ll start gambling alone, borrowing money, sacrificing work, lying about gambling, and even racking up debts. It is also the stage where you start going after your losses.
  3. Desperation – In this phase, gambling will start getting out of hand. And although you feel guilt and shame, those are not enough to stop you. Gambling can also lead to more dangerous behaviors, such as resorting to cheating or stealing to fund your addiction. 
  4. Hopeless – Finally, this is where you’ll hit rock bottom. Once you realize that you’ve already lost everything—friends, family, savings, job—you’ll feel hopeless and think nobody cares about you. That can lead to other risky behaviors such as drug abuse or even suicide attempt.

As a result of other researches, here are five observations on the psychology of gambling:

The Bandwagon Effect

For non-psychology majors, the bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon where individuals do something mainly because others are doing it. That is even if it means setting aside their beliefs. Going back to gambling, you can usually see this phenomenon when lottery jackpots hit all-time highs. 

Since record-high lottery jackpots are not a common occurrence, they attract media attention. As a result of media exposure and fear of missing out (FOMO), you’ll see a craze for buying tickets. Even those who have never played the lottery before will “jump on the bandwagon” and purchase some lottery tickets.

Gambler’s Fallacy

Another psychology of gambling observation is the gambler’s fallacy. Also called the Monte Carlo fallacy, the gambler’s fallacy refers to the belief that the probability for a single outcome is different from the probability for a result after a series of outcomes. The problem with this line of thinking is that past event has nothing to do with the chance of something happening in the future.

When it comes to gambling, you’ll see gamblers incorporating this belief in their strategy. Take a roulette game as an example. If black numbers have appeared seven times in a row, gambler’s fallacy will tell you to bet on the red. That’s due to the belief that if something happens repeatedly, a different one is about to occur.

Happy Mood = Increased Gambling

A study on the psychology of gambling discovered a positive connection between increased gambling and stuff that induces a good mood. That’s because when you’re in a positive spirit, you tend to take more risks.

You’ll often see this behavior when a gambler hits the jackpot or is on a winning streak. At times like this one, you have to keep your emotions in check. It’s easy to get carried away by your sensations. However, remember that a clear mind and sound decision-making are essential to gambling success. So, one thing to take away from the psychology of gambling is not to decide according to your emotions. 

Change in Winning Expectations

When talking about the psychology of gambling, one interesting thing to ask is what characterizes gambler expectations. One study had racetrack bettors calculate the winning odds of their preferred horse, both before and after placing their wager on the horse. 

According to the findings, bettors tended to believe their horse had a better winning chance after placing their wager. The result of the heightened commitment is their being more optimistic. 

Belief in Gambling Superstitions

Another psychology of gambling observation is that several players tend to believe in gambling rituals and superstitions. By its nature, betting is a random event. However, many gamblers have faith that they can create a strategy that will boost their winning odds. That involves:

  • Illusion of control
  • Categorizing slot machines as hot and cold
  • Trying to predict nonexistent patterns in random numbers
  • Using a lucky charm or performing rituals to sustain the winning streak

Which Neurotransmitter Is Involved With Gambling?

Your body contains a buffet of hormones that dictate the way you feel every time. The feelings can go anywhere from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. And one of the contributing factors to that emotional roller coaster is gambling. 

When it comes to gambling neurotransmitters, dopamine is a dominant power driver. This hormone is in charge of making you feel gloriously happy. Looking at the psychology of gambling, you’ll find that the “thrill” that comes with the game triggers the brain’s reward system to produce up to 10x more than the amount usual gratifying experiences would release. And when you experience that dopamine rush, you’re prone to making unwise decisions.

Another fact that might surprise you is that withdrawal is present among compulsive gamblers. While gamblers aren’t coming down from the chemical high of substance abuse, the psychology of gambling shows that they could experience similar after-effects. Learning the role of dopamine and brain chemistry in gambling addiction will help you understand why problem gamblers can suffer from withdrawal. 

Can a Psychologist Help With Gambling?

With the birth of online casinos, gambling has become more accessible than ever before. Unfortunately, the added convenience has also increased the risk of developing an addiction. If you’re having gambling issues or know someone who does, you might be asking whether a psychologist can help with gambling. The short answer is yes. 

Psychologists have undergone training to diagnose and treat a variety of mental health concerns, including problem gambling. They can help you identify and address factors causing your or your loved one’s harmful gambling behavior. Psychologists understand the psychology of gambling better than anyone else. They usually meet clients individually, but you may also do so with a trusted friend or family member. You might even have the chance to attend group therapy sessions where you can meet others in a similar situation.

Alternatively, if gambling has taken a toll on your finances, it’s best to consult a financial advisor, legal service, or social worker. These people have extensive knowledge to help you manage any legal issue or financial ruin you might be experiencing. 

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