The Psychology Of Gambling
For some people, the urge to gamble is a mystery. The possibility of “getting something for nothing”, just isn’t worth the risk of getting nothing for something.
People tend to fall along a scale from very risk-averse to very risk-tolerant, and certain people, because of heredity, environment, or both, may be more inclined to gamble.
But this does not speak to gambling psychology, which comes from a much more basic, animal part of our nature.
What makes us gamble?
To some extent, we are forced to gamble, since no outcome is 100 percent clear. We are constantly, every day, making decisions about what is going on and planning our daily lives, and every decision is a gamble.
If I decide to take the day off from work I am weighing the threat of getting fired or reprimanded against the benefit of going fishing or recovering from illness or whatever I plan to do. There isn’t necessarily any money changing hands, but I am taking a gamble just the same.The gambling psychology question, however, is what makes us play a casino game and gamble for money?
“Behavioral Conditioning in Gambling Psychology”
The answer is the same as for any risky behavior that one may feel compelled to do repeatedly. At some point, when we did it, usually early on, it felt good. This is called positive reinforcement.
When a certain behavior is rewarded with a good feeling, we want to do it again. This is why mice will keep pushing a button that dispenses a food pellet and why people keep on lighting up cigarettes despite the fact that the package tells you that it will probably eventually kill you. The effects of behavioral conditioning are extremely strong.
Of course, when we gamble, whether at a land-based casino or in one of the many online casinos, we often lose. This would seem to be a punishment that one would expect to extinguish the behavior in question, but people keep coming back to casinos, win or lose. Why is this?
“How Intermittent Reinforcement Works in Gambling Psychology”
The explanation comes from the way conditioning works. Behavioral scientists have found that the most effective form of conditioning comes with something called intermittent reinforcement. This is when the desired behavior is rewarded or not rewarded randomly.
Let’s just say a person has enjoyed to play online blackjack and have won while gambling 20 times in a row and then lost 20 times in a row, there is a good chance that you would lose your taste for it.
However, if your 20 wins were sprinkled randomly throughout 40 gambling sessions, you would probably be happy to continue, even if it has been a long time since your last win. This is intermittent reinforcement in action and is the main effect behind “gambling psychology”.
Gambling Psychology can also raise the question: Why do rich and famous people put their reputations and fortunes on a risky line that could possibly involve insider trading?