Casino lights and sounds encourage risky decision-making

When you walk into a casino you
cannot help but be overwhelmed by the bombardment of sounds and lights and all
this sensory stimuli that is being produced by the electronic gambling
machines. What if those jingles and bells and whistles are actually there to
encourage you to make risky decisions and lose more money? So we were trying to
find out whether sensory stimulation of the type that you would encounter in the
casino floor can influence how people make decisions. In order to study this
we brought over 100 participants into the lab and we had them play
laboratory gambling games. And while they did that we use an eye tracking technology to examine where they were looking and what information they were
considering while they were making those gambling decisions. What we found was that just like the
rats, that when wins were accompanied by casino-inspired jingles and light
stimuli, that people made more risky decisions associated with unfavourable
odds. Furthermore the eye tracking data suggests that people were paying less
attention to the probability of winning, i.e. the chances of winning and also
appear to be more aroused and excited when playing the queued version — the
version of the game with sensory enhancement present. So the technology
behind slot machines has changed dramatically over the last couple of
decades and in modern games there are new forms of sensory feedback like
vibration feedback through the seat and 3-D visuals. So if some players are more
susceptible to these biasing effects on their decision-making that could be a
risk factor for gambling problems and that could also suggest ways of
regulating new features in these games

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