The University of Exeter and Swansea University conducted a joint research and identified the modifications in the brain, which make some gamblers react in a similar way to almost wins as they do to actual wins.
The research made it into the gambling news with its findings that near-misses are supported by increases in the brain’s electrical activity. More specifically, this is the theta frequency range, which is said to be dealing with the outcomes of wins and losses.
Scientists participating in the study found out that these increases in theta are associated with both how serious someone’s gambling story is, as well as how inclined are they to develop a future real gambling problem.
Slots machines’ tricks
For example slot machines, which are extremely popular and can be found in numerous land based and mobile casinos, give the players the opportunity to know not only whether they have won or lost, but also if they “almost won.”
Slot machines have their popular so-called “near-miss effect.” It is quite tricky, because there is the case when a losing slot machine display completely resembles a win display. An example of this is the two out of three matching symbols on the payline.
Near-misses are losses, but previous research shows that they may support constant gambling because the brain perceives them as similar to actual wins.
New university research shows that gamblers’ brain reacts similarly to almost winning and actual winning
• The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter and Swansea University
• The research was conducted among male gamblers and non-gamblers
• It was found that near-misses are supported by increases in the brain’s electrical activity
Dr. Natalia Lawrence from the University of Exeter and Dr. Simon Dymond at Swansea University, conducted the currently discussed research, and found that near-misses produce some similar increases in various gamblers’ brain theta activity, to real wins.
Dr. Lawrence commented: “Our findings show for the first time that gamblers have an exaggerated theta response to almost winning in brain regions related to reward processing, which could contribute to them continuing to gamble despite their losses.”
She added: “If replicated, these brain activity changes could help us identify those vulnerable to gambling addiction and might be a useful measure of the effectiveness of therapy for gambling related problems.”
Dr. Dymond also mentioned: “Problem gambling is a growing social concern, and the brain and behavioral effects of ‘almost winning’ are now well documented.”
Moreover: “Advances in brain imaging techniques mean we are now able to pinpoint the precise brain regions involved in the near-miss effect and identify how they interact with people’s vulnerability to problem gambling.”
The research process
The research included male gamblers and non-gamblers and exposed them to simulated slot machines, which had three outcomes – win, loss and near-miss. Meanwhile, participants experienced a brain scan.
A technique called magnetoencephalography was used by the researches, and it was chosen because it measures both the timing and location of brain responses to the various gambling outcomes.
The results showed that the theta activity increased in response to near-misses, quite relative to other losses in different brain regions, which exposed the link to the seriousness of gambling addiction of the participants.
Dr. Dymond also mentioned: “It is important to point out that this study does not show that brain responses to near misses cause gambling problems; that vulnerability to gambling problems can be predicted by theta changes or that the present findings apply to everyone as only males with some gambling experience were included in the study.”
The conclusion was: “We can, however, conclude that brain responses to near-misses resemble those to actual wins; that brain responses to near-misses are associated with increased theta activity in gamblers and that gamblers’ level of reported gambling severity and susceptibility to thoughts about gambling predicted activity in brain regions are responsible for the near-miss effect.”