GRCC Psychology Lecture Series 2018 – Gambling Behavior


>>I hope everyone
can hear me. I’m really happy
to be here. Before I get started,
I just like to kinda know who I’m talking to. Uh, people
studying psychology? Okay, what about
social work? Counseling, in general,
anything like that? Any– who else? Anyone else from a
different area? Where are
you from?>>(indistinct).
>>Game design, all right.>>Nursing.
>>Nursing, okay. Anyone else? No– yeah?>>(indistinct).
>>Music composition, all right. So I like to ask
’cause it just helps me to think
about examples. My particular area is in
applied behavior analysis, so what I do, in a nutshell,
is if people need help increasing, decreasing,
modifying, or maintaining their behavior, I help to
connect their behavior to the environment
or the interactions that they have with
stimuli around them, in order to help
change that behavior. A lot of my work is involved
with developmental disabilities and helping
young children and individuals with
problematic behavior to find more adaptive and
more socially acceptable ways of getting the things
that they need, as well as working
on language. One of the other areas
of my work, however, is in gambling
behavior, which I’m gonna– we’re gonna
go through an overview today, starting with some
basic theory with it, and then hopefully ending
with some of the approaches that we use to deal with
problematic gambling behavior. So with that being said, let me
first ask you guys a question. You don’t have to answer it, but
who here has gambled before? Okay, casino
gambling? How about a
scratch-off? All right, how about
a church raffle? Yeah, what about, uh… who’s
played Monopoly and dice? So we’ve all interacted
at some point with the mechanisms
of gambling. I’m gonna spend a lot
of time today talking about the physical mechanisms
more in a sense, the game design,
as it was mentioned, because that’s kinda where
a lot of my interest is. But to start off with,
let’s talk about gambling and why do we
bother to study it. First and foremost,
gambling is huge. This is something that is
in just about every culture, and just about any place you
go, you can find gambling. 76.1 million patrons visit
commercial casinos each year. This is just the
US casinos. Not– uh, and this is
commercial casinos, so the numbers related to Native
casinos, I don’t have those. Think about that– that’s
32% of the US population is gonna visit a
casino this year. When we looked around the room,
we saw that just about everyone in here has interacted
with gambling in some way. 86% of Americans will
gamble in their lifetime, so most of us are
going to interact with some kind
of gambling. Commercial casinos net
over $40 billion a year. This has been going up
just about every year. It’s up 3.4%
since 2016. That’s a lot
of money. That is a
lot of money. Casinos, in a general
sense, are classified within our
recreational economy. This is a
lot of money. We’ll talk about how much
money it is in a second. 2006, Americans lost $91 billion
in all forms of gambling. $91 billion, so if you’re
thinking about the cost of education, you’re
thinking about the costs that we talk about in
terms of jobs lost, and the economy,
this is huge. This is a huge amount of our
wealth is being transferred through
gambling venues. Let’s look at that and
see how big of a number that really is– the
movie industry’s revenues are about
$10.6 billion. Who here has seen a movie
in the last year? What about the
record industry? They net about
$8.7 billion. I think we’d all agree, when
we talk about recreation, these are two of our biggest
recreational industries. They don’t even– they’re
less than one-fourth of what the gambling
industry does, just the commercial
casinos alone. Okay, what else do
you guys do for fun? What other
recreational things? Anyone like sports? Yeah? Sports make a lot
of money, right? How much does an average NFL
player or NBA player make? Well, if you take all four
of our major sports leagues– I’m a soccer fan, I didn’t
even bother to put it up there. It doesn’t even
enter into it. But the NFL itself only
nets $8.2 billion. You can take all four
of our sports leagues, take every sports
fan in the US, it does still does not
make as much money as the commercial
casino industry. So those are
big numbers. Very, very
big numbers. Okay, but we don’t all
go to a casino, right? Raise your hands
if you want, gone to a casino
in the last year? That’s not many
of us, right? You know, these
numbers are coming from our
commercial casinos. Well, where
can you gamble? So we’re right
here-ish, right? I know you guys have a casino
a little bit south of here… but no casinos
within the town. So you can’t gamble
anywhere, right? Well, you can gamble at every
one of these locations. So it isn’t– gambling isn’t
just this thing that happens outside of town. The lottery
is gambling. Michigan spent– uh, Michiganders spent
$27.8 billion in 2015 on the lottery. How much do you think
we spent on education? Lotteries aren’t that
bad, though, right? They’re not as
bad as casinos. Casinos– everyone
knows casinos do things to keep you in there,
they got the free alcohol, they don’t have clocks,
they’re confusing. If you’ve ever
been in a casino, you know they’re built
to keep you in. If you gotta cash out with your
chips, where’s the cashier? Do you guys know? Is it near
the front? No, you got to walk to
the back, get your money, then walk back through
all of the slot machines. But these aren’t so bad,
but the lottery is– you know, it’s a very, very
prevalent form of gambling. You know, we think
it’s not that bad. You’re not trapped
in a casino. It only costs
a dollar, right? It’s run by the state,
it funds education… my grandma plays scratch-offs
and lottery, right? Does anyone’s grandma
play the scratch-offs? Yeah, it’s not
bad, right? You can get a lottery
scratch-off anywhere. Virtually anywhere. I just did my
PhD in Illinois. We had actually have slot
machines in any place that serves alcohol,
including our bakeries, because they serve
rum balls, yeah. So scratch-offs are
absolutely everywhere. You gotta spend– who here
has bought a scratch-off in the last year? How much was
your scratch-off? Dollar?
>>(indistinct).>>$5? The black T-shirt–
you raised your hand.>>(indistinct).
>>$5. It’s $5 bets, right?
That’s no big deal. You don’t bet as
much on lottery but who here has spent more than
$5 when the Powerball gets big? Yeah, I’ve seen people
buy $20, $30 of tickets. This is a picture
that I took in… I think I was just
south of Chicago. I just happened
to stop for gas. This is a picture that I took,
it was just sitting out. Somebody came in and spent
over $300 on scratch-offs, every one of
them a loss. I don’t know
about you guys but $25 to me, especially
as a grad student, that was, like, how much money
I had to eat for a week. Scratch-offs
can be just as– you can end up spending
just as much money. I think the most I’ve
ever had in a casino on a craps table at any
given time was maybe $25. But I’ve actually sat in a
casino and watched people put down $2,000,
$3,000 at a time. The largest I’ve ever seen–
I’ve seen a $40 scratch-off. I can’t believe spending
$40 on a scratch-off. Let’s take a moment to talk
about the lottery, then. You have a 1 in a
176 million dollar– er, million chance of
winning the lottery. Is it still worth
your dollar? This is kind of a hard number
to conceptualize, I think– 1 in 176 million. Who here wants to
be a millionaire? Wants to make
million dollars? All right, let’s
figure out some– let’s look at this
number in context. Okay, you are– you have a
1 in 25 million chance of being killed by
a vending machine. Right? Almost six times more likely to
be killed by a vending machine than winning
the lottery. You got a 1 in 11.5 million
chance of getting killed by a shark. 1 in a 115,000 people
will go to the hospital for a pogo
stick injury. Way more likely to get
a pogo stick injury than actually
winning the lottery. You got a one in
a 662,000 chance of being an
Olympic athlete. I don’t know about you guys
but I’m not gonna be– (chuckling)
I’m not gonna make it to the Olympics
this year. But I’ve a much better
chance of doing that than actually going and
winning the lottery. You got a 1 in 10 million
chance of being the president. You’re much more likely
to date a millionaire than actually win the
lottery and become one. So if you’re looking
for a life plan, this might be a quicker way
to get to millionaire. I would say education might
be a little bit easier. Now, that’s all fun, but
gambling can be an addiction. 2% to 4% of the
US population suffers from
problematic gambling, whether it’s
gambling addiction or with what’s called
“problematic gambling,” so kind of the
precursor to it. It’s 2% to 4%. That’s a pretty
big number. I do a lot of work with
children with autism– that’s about 1%. Who here knows somebody who
has a child with autism? So look around
the room. Keep your hands
high, please. This is how many people know
somebody who has a child with autism– that’s 1%
of the population. We’re looking at
about four times that. So the chances that
you guys know someone who has a
gambling addiction is actually much higher
than you might think. It can lead to some pretty,
pretty big difficulties. Preoccupation with gambling
is the nature of addiction, so always thinking
about gambling. A need for increased wages
to maintain excitement. So gambling is an
interesting addiction because it’s an addiction
to physical stimuli. It’s very easy for us to
conceptualize drug addiction as being a problem, right,
because you have chemicals entering into
your body that are disrupting the
neurological workings. This is the same issue–
tolerance and withdrawal. In order to keep
enjoying the gambling, you gotta increase
the wagers, you gotta keep increasing
what you’re doing. Repeated unsuccessful attempts
to control gambling. So kinda the hallmark
of problematic gambling is that you’re having problems
with it and that you can’t stop. Restlessness and irritability
when trying to stop. Has anyone ever
been around someone who’s on withdrawal
from caffeine? Yeah, what about withdrawal
from cigarettes? I know I was
pretty irritable. Withdrawal from
cocaine, opioids? It’s the
same thing. You end up having the
same kind of problems. Gambling to escape problems
and dysthymic moods. So trying to escape sadness and
escape your social problems. Attempting to regain losses
through continued betting. Does anyone here not
know that gambling is not the best way
to make money? Who wins in
gambling? We have a
saying for it. “The house,”
right? What does that mean,
“The house always wins”? It means they’re
eventually going to win. They’re gonna take
your money, right? But people who have
problematic gambling, they believe often that they
can get their money back. Attempts to conceal
gambling is very common with problematic gambling–
you’re trying to hide it. Engaging in illegal acts in
order to continue gambling. This is a lot of times robbery,
stealing from family members. Jeopardizing your job
relationships and opportunities because of the
gambling addiction, and relying on others
for financial support in order to– for problems
caused by the gambling. So this is borrowing money,
oftentimes stealing money… or having your significant
other pay your rent because you don’t
have any money. Gambling and communities
have a relationship, too. So around casinos, there
is a higher likelihood of increased poverty
and unemployment. Increased crime rates
oftentimes go around places where gambling
is very prevalent. Again, these are difficult
correlations sometimes ’cause casinos are not often
built in the best neighborhoods ’cause they require
large amounts of land. Decreased property value
oftentimes is associated with high levels of
gambling in the area. So what
do we know? We’ve established that
gambling is prevalent. People play,
right? Most people in the US at some
point interact with gambling. We know that it’s
widely available. You can gamble
anywhere. You’re unlikely to win big,
and it can ruin your life. I will note that only 4% of the
population does have problems with gambling even though
most of us will gamble. So there are a lot
more elements into it, so it’s not
just the game. But it does beg the question,
“Why do people gamble?” Why would we actually
interact with a casino? Why would we
even go in there? Well, from my side, I’m
interested in behavior. I’m interested in connecting
behaviors with the environment, with the stimuli that
they interact with. And so, I approach this from a
behavior analytic standpoint, trying to understand
the variables that precede and
follow the behavior. So from that end,
we’re gonna– I’m gonna give you some basic
assumptions of that field of the things that are basic
or are generally observed. We repeat behaviors that produce
desirable consequences– we call that
“reinforcement.” We avoid behaviors
that cause discomfort or loss of desirable
consequences– we call that
“punishment.” And we avoid effortful
behaviors whenever possible. Because of this, we tend
to match our effort to reinforcement. You tend to put your
behavior into the things that pay off
the most, and avoid the things
that pay off the least. Does this sound like
some basic assumptions we can all get
behind here? Yeah. All right, so… we then need to
kind of figure out what’s actually going
on with gambling. BF Skinner, one of the
founders of behavior analysis, early behavior analyst
presented this explanation. He said that gambling is a
system of economic control in which the individual
is induced to pay money for a reinforcement the
value of which is too small to lead to exchange under
any other schedule. What he meant by this
is that gambling is a behavioral control that
exchanges reinforcement for effort… in a manner that you would
not accept any other way. When you guys play
scratch-offs– a lot of people said
they play scratch-offs– on average, they’re about
1-to-3, 1-to-4 odds. If every dollar
that you gave me, I’m only gonna give you back
a dollar every four times, you would stop
giving me dollars. Let’s put it in another
context, a coke machine– sorry, I’m from the South
so every soda’s a coke. I don’t know
what pop is. You go to a coke
machine, you put in– I guess you don’t
do this anymore, but you put
in a quarter. If you had to put in–
if every four quarters, every $4, whatever it
is that the coke cost, you get your coke, would
you keep going to it? Probably not,
right? You’re not gonna pay four
times the amount of a coke to get one coke. But you do when
you’re gambling. So why… why
does that happen? Well, one of the– the
example that Skinner gave is he said it’s kind of
a dishonest salesman. If you pay for
three packages, three units of whatever
it is that he’s selling, and he only delivered one,
you would fire him… right? I’m not gonna
accept that. If Amazon only
delivered three of the– er, one of the packages
that I ordered and I paid for three, I’m
never gonna use them again. But what if you ordered
three and you got four? You’d probably go to
your friend and say, “Hey, this is
so awesome. “I got four, and I
only paid for three.” It’s pretty
exciting, right? I like getting more
than I paid for. Well, if the
salesman is smart, he would do this to about
every fifth customer. He would give out– only
give out every now and then an extra number
of packages, and he could undercut
everyone else. This is essentially
what a casino does. So the way casinos make money
is the games must pay out in an unequal ratio
to make profit. So if you were playing
on a roulette wheel, betting on any single number
pays out 35 times your bet. So bet $1, if you get the
number, you make $35. But on average, you’re only
gonna win 1 out of 38 times. So you’re gonna lose
about 2.9% of your money, so about 3 cents every dollar
that you bet over time, but when you win,
it feels a big win. Now, the nice thing
that casinos have is they don’t have
to win against you. They have to win against
100 of you, right? And statistically,
that’s going to happen so, to the individual,
this feels like a big win. When patrons enter
into a business with this dishonest
salesman, fully informed of his
poor follow-through but random
overcompensation, the product being bought is
better considered chance to win. So the casino doesn’t
sell you the reinforcer, they sell you the
chance to win. Anyone who’s played the
claw machine in a…? You know what I’m talking
about where you– yeah? Do you all know you’re probably
not gonna get the thing out? It’s the chance to win it
that you’re really paying for. That’s essentially what gambling
is from an economic standpoint. So how do
we get there? How do we have this
insensitivity to consequences when we know that
we’re losing, right? We know that
you keep losing. So how do
we do that? I’m gonna focus a little
bit here on slot machines just because they’re the
most typical type of game that’s played. We’ll talk about a couple
other things as we go through but the I to think of
gambling as an issue of sensitivity
to consequences. So starting with that, we
have to accept the fact that gambling is
inherently random. It has to be. When you look at basic
behavior patterns, when reinforcement
is continuous, meaning every time you
were to play a slot machine, you would win, we could predict how you’re
gonna play very, very cleanly. First of all, if you
won every time, gambling would
not exist, right? We said gambling
in order– in order to consider
something gambling, they have to pay out
an economic exchange that is not sustainable
under a basic schedule. So what ends up happening
with fixed ratio schedules, or that winning on
every so many times is we see this very
predictable pattern. We call it
“stair-stepping.” The individual won’t
work until they start to feel motivated for,
let’s just say, the money. For example, why do we pay
people on the end of the week? Why do we like to pay
people on Thursday, Friday? When you get your paycheck,
how motivated are you to work? No, you’re gonna
do what’s called a “post-reinforcement
pause.” You get your
reinforcer, you’re gonna go, “Oh, yeah,
I’m gonna take a break.” I like call it the…
(exhaling) moment. ‘Cause when you get your
coke, you take a drink, you’re not gonna work
for a little bit. So you get your moment
of satisfaction, and then you’re gonna
wait until you spend all your money
over the weekend. Come Monday, “Oh, man, I spent
all of my weekend money, “now I got to start
working again.” You start working,
you start working. Towards the end of the week,
especially if you work on things like commission,
or an hourly wage, you start working more
and more and more because you need to get to
a certain amount of money. You hit the weekend,
you pause again. This is very characteristic
of fixed ratio schedules of reinforcement. It wouldn’t work in
a gambling sense. We don’t want that, and if I want to get as
much money from you, I want you to
keep playing, I need to get you
to work harder. The other problem with
that is that if you won every seven times on a slot
machine, when would you bet big?>>(indistinct).>>On the seventh
spin, right? So again, the predictability
cannot be there for gambling
to work. Variable ratios, however,
were suggested as being kind of this element
that drives gambling. A variable ratio is when
the reinforcer is delivered on around an average
amount of time. So when reinforcement
is provided after an average
number of occurrences, we call that a
“variable ratio.” And because you don’t know
when it’s gonna pay off, you gotta
keep playing. So let’s just think
of a bag of marbles. You have 20 marbles– only four
were winning blue marbles. If you pull out
all 20 marbles, you’re gonna win
one blue marble on an average of about five
marbles– we call that a “VR5.” What that
allows you to do, or what that does in terms
of general behavior patterns, VR schedules produce
this persistent and oftentimes elevated
level of behavior… because you don’t know
when you’re gonna win, so you just
keep playing. If– everyone works,
I assume to some degree, right? So you do some
amount of work. If every hour that you worked,
your boss came out and said, “Okay, you normally
make $10 an hour,” and every now and then,
they came out and said, “You make 20 this hour,”
how excited would you be? Would you work a
little bit more because maybe the next
one might pay off? That’s the nature
of variable ratios. And so, a great
deal of research has shown with animals,
with humans, variable ratios produce
persistent behavior. If I wanted you to work hard,
I would give a variable ratio. If I want you to work
predictably and pause, then I give you
a FR ratio. We use this in
clinical applications. Generally, problem behavior
is presented on a VR schedule. The child every now and
then gets attention for the problem behavior, every now and then the
tantrum produces a toy or escape
from work. And so, this is something
we look for a lot. It’s very prevalent in terms of the way a
gambling seems to occur. Gambling games are known to
have statistical probabilities. Most of them
are published. You can actually get
literature on slot machines. A pair of dice has
six possible ways to amount to 7 out
of 36 possibilities. If you’ve played craps,
then you know 7 is really important
in that game. On average, you’re gonna land
7 one out of six times– 16%. This leads gamblers to
believe that schedules of control are associated
with the statistics, right? It makes gamblers think
that variable schedules seem to be
at play. And so, we get what’s called
the “gambler’s fallacy.” The gambler’s fallacy
is when a gambler says, “I’ve lost on the last
five scratch-offs, “which means a
win is coming.” The statistics
are 1 out of 5. So if I play four
times and I lose, what’s the next
scratch-off gonna be? If you have gambling
issues, “I’m gonna win.” Have you ever heard
anyone say that? Right? So you get this issue
with variable ratios versus random ratios. Gambling has
independent assortment. In most states, it’s illegal
to make it otherwise. There’s a base– I think the
only ones that I know of is in Europe,
slot machines– or “fruit machines”
as they call ’em– they have to pay off a
certain amount per hour. So there is a behavior
called “skimming,” where people will watch for
a slot machine to lose, and lose, and lose,
and lose, and then they’ll
attempt to jump on it. Guess how effective
it is, by the way? Not terribly but it
is what they do. Variable ratios are
different than random ratios. A variable ratio are really
never present in gambling. Instead, the outcome
is usually computed– a random number
generation. It has the same– it has what we
call “independent assortment.” It means every time
the odds of you winning are exactly
the same. This means that when we talk
about your odds of winning, we’re talking about
your odds of winning over thousands
of plays. So if you flip a coin
and you’re betting heads, 50% of the time
you’re gonna win. Right? But you could go 100 flips
before you actually get a head– uh, get it to
land on heads. It’s random– every single
time it’s just as likely to land on tails
as it as heads. Most gambling games
are the same way. So in a VR schedule,
in order to make sure the probability
is 1 out of 20, we’d throw away each
one of those marbles every time we
take it out. This means that betting higher
on each successive loss will lead to eventually
you making your money back. Have you ever met a
gambler who does that? Somebody says, “Oh, I just
bet a dollar and I lost it. “I need to bet $3
on the next one “so I make my
money back.” It’s a very
common behavior. On a random ratio,
it doesn’t matter. You could go 5 times without
winning, you could go 100. You could win five
times in a row. It’s random. Independent assortment ensures
that the gambling game is random. If we take a
look at this, VR schedules make sense
to continue gambling. If you’ve played
and lost, the next one is
more likely to win. If you play again
and you lose, the next one is
more likely to win. And that percentage keeps
growing and growing and growing. In a random ratio game, the
percentage never goes up. It’s never worth continuing
to play if you keep losing. So when we compare them,
reinforcement provided on a random number
of behaviors, the actual schedule
is definite and programmed on
a variable ratio. It means if you if you
happen to know the machine has a variable ratio and you
want to guaranteed succeed, take your current bet, and add
the number of losses to it, times your initial bet,
you’ll always end up okay, as long as you have a big
enough bankroll to keep playing. There is– on a random
ratio, that’s not true. So the question
is, then, “Are we able to sense
a random ratio?” Do you think you’d be
able to figure it out? Maybe– we’re all smart,
we can count. Well, Hurlburt and colleagues
in 1980 did an experiment where they basically
asked people– they wanted to see if people
could tell the difference. So they gave them two– we had
two different slot machines. They set them
up in pairs. Each pair was
programmed to pay out at either 6
or 20 trials. And for each pair, one slot
machine was a VR schedule or random ratio, so basically, you could pick
between the two slot machines, One where you had this
guaranteed success if you can detect
the VR schedule, one where it
was random. The difficulty is that there was
no preference shown for either. People would
play either one. You’d think they’d be
able to figure out that one has a programmed
way of rewarding and the other one’s
purely random. Players prefer to win whichever
one appeared to win more. So if they happened to
play on one that paid out a little bit quicker,
that’s the one they picked. And the number of coins bet
increased as a function of the number of
trials since a win. Remember, I was saying
with the VR schedule, the best thing you can
do is keep betting more, more and more
and more, basically just times 3 by
whatever you bet before, keep doing that
until you win, you’ll always make
your money back. People did this regardless of
what schedule they were on. So what did that show?
It shows that players can’t easily discriminate the
difference between a VR schedule and a random ratio. It means that individuals
wrongly tend to play that strategy that’s more
effective on a on a VR schedule than when actually playing
a random ratio schedule. And remember
what I said, almost no game in casino
gambling is a VR schedule. So it means that
we have this, what we call, a
“negative recency effect.” It means that the
more we lose, the more likely we are
to keep playing that because we think
that it’s gonna win. We’re gonna play it as though
it’s a variable ratio schedule. We’re gonna keep
betting more and more after a string
of losses and that’s what that classic
gambler’s fallacy is called. Players tend to follow which
machine provides more wins. So whatever game feels
like they’re winning more, that’s the they’re
gonna go with, regardless of the
actual schedule. Because we’re not really good
at detecting those schedules. I think slot machines are
a fun example of this. It’s “try and play slowly
on a slot machine.” You’ll find that you get kinda
mindless after a little while. Then, you start playing
very, very fast. Does anyone know how quickly
people play slot machines, by the way? Just a fun fact. Most people play
slot machines at 3 to 5 seconds
a trial. So most
slot machines– there’s another name
that people call them. They sometimes call ’em
“penny machines.” Has anyone ever
heard that? How much do you bet, on
average, on a slot machine? It’s about
a $1.15. Now, think about that–
every 3 to 5 seconds, you bet a dollar. That’s not much of a
penny machine to me. Remember, we were talking
about scratch-offs. You play a dollar
or $5 whatever. If you play a slot
machine at speed, most slot machines,
you’ll lose $850 an hour. It’s quite a
bit of money. All right, so anyways,
what we’ve established is that the more you lose,
the more you play. The more you’re likely
you are to keep playing, and that doesn’t quite sound
like that economic mindset that we said where we try
to optimize behaviors that pay out as
much as possible. So something else
must be going on. It’s not just
the schedule. But it does lead us
to say that basically when you’re gambling,
you act like the mouse. You are hitting that button,
you’re hitting that lever on that variable
schedule. So we treat slot
machines, at least, and most
gambling games as though they’re variable
schedules even when they’re not. But something else
is going on. And so, what we
saw is that wins– the more you win, the
more you seem to play. So Dixon, MacLin, and
Daugherty did a study in 2006 where they said, “Well, do
you prefer to win a lot? “Or do you want to
win one big win?” And what they did
is they actually– they essentially had people,
you had the two slot machines. One pays about
every 10 times… uh, every 10 trials,
you win about 10 cents. One paid every about
every 50 trials, 50 cents. It’s equal in terms
of its utility. You’re gonna make back
the same amount of money. Overwhelmingly, people wanted
to play the 10 cent machine. So regardless of the amount
of money you win back, winning seems to
be important. “If I win– the one
that I win more on, “more often, more frequently is
the one that I want to play.” And this makes sense from
a behavioral standpoint. It actually increases the
ratio of wins to effort. And I’ll add that one of
the neat things about this is that money is a
conditioned reinforcer. It doesn’t– it only
has as much value as you happen
to have for it but who here would accept
money for just about anything? Money is one of our most
powerful reinforces in our life so it’s interesting
that we will take any little amount of money,
despite the big amount of money. So now we know that more wins
is more important. When you play a
modern slot machine, they used to be that you
would win on one line when the three things,
three symbols show that
they’re equal. Has anyone played a
modern slot machine? They look
more this. I’ve seen ones where you can
play on up to 2,000 lines. So you can bet when they
call “penny machines,” what you’re really doing is
when you’re betting a dollar, you’re betting on
100 different lines that you can win–
100 bets all at once. What is the likelihood, then,
that you’re gonna win something? Right, you’re gonna win
on a couple of pennies but not on
all of them. Slot machines are really good
at always making sure you win. The frequency of wins is
very, very, very high. This leads to something we call
a “loss disguised as a win,” or an “LDW.” Modern slot machines
generally have five reels, three to five
symbols each, and allow for betting
across many, many lines. Each line costs
some amount of bet, usually a penny,
and you win– let’s just say if
you win on one line, you’ll typically win about
3 cents for that line. But you’re betting
100 bets at a time. Right, so let’s just say you
have a 10% chance of winning on any given line, you’re
gonna win at least 10 times for every 100 pennies
that you’re betting. It allows for you to
win on a few lines while losing
many more. What this ends up doing is if
you win on one line for 3 cents on an overall bet of
40 lines, 40 cents, you have an overall
loss of 37 cents. How do you think people who are
playing slot machines react? This is what
that looks. You bet 30 lines for 1 cent,
you get a total bet of 30. You win 10 cents. What does the
slot machine say? It says
you won. What does the
slot machine do? It flashes, it makes sounds,
says in big letters, “You won.” When you– the sound of
your coins going up. You know, ching, ching,
ching, ching, ching! Slot machine
acts like you won. You did win,
you won 10 cents, but you really lost
30 cents, right? This is how we
react, though. Now, you might not react
physically like that but your behavior and the
neurobehavioral correlates all look
like you won. We respond to any
winning line as a win. It’s hypothesized that
because we’re getting all these wins, we do
not detect how often and how much we’re
actually losing. It allows casinos to
provide more frequent wins. And as we said,
ratios matter. How often you win
while playing matters. If you– if I were to say,
“Okay, you work an hour “to get paid for an hour’s
worth of work,” right? Sure. If I pay you at
the end of the week, so I pay for
five days of work, and I don’t pay you at
the end of the week, how many weeks are you
gonna keep working for me? Not often. Would you rather me
pay you every day? For every hour, that’s
how we prefer to work. We like that,
it’s predictable. But when we start taking that
away, what it allows us to do is give lots and
lots of wins. The machine can tell, “you won,
you won, you won, you won.” It makes it hard
for us to detect how often we’re
actually losing. We act to LDWs almost the
same way as a normal win. Another aspect is we
get something called the “big win effect.” Gamblers also misattribute early
magnitudes of wins and densities to the overall
probability of the game, meaning if you win big
when you first start, you will
play longer. This is called the
“big win effect.” This “Walking Dead”
machine is the one of the first
slot machines I ever played. I happened to win, like, $200
or $300 on my very first play. I was so excited,
right? It’s so cool. I think I bet,
like, 50 cents, and I was a grad student, so
this was a big deal to me. I went back to this
same slot machine over, and over, and over,
and over again. Guess how much money I walked
away from that weekend? I was down 50 bucks.
(laughing) But why did I
keep going to it? I never won
big again. I just kept losing, and losing,
and losing, and losing. But because that big win
early on set the stage. It made me insensitive to the
contingency that followed. Gamblers who win big early
tend to play more persistently than those
who do not, even when the slot machine
stops paying off. Near-miss effects are another
aspect that these games present. Outcomes that appear
similar to a win may function similar
to a reinforcer. This makes a lot of sense from a
general behavioral standpoint. We have something we call
“stimulus generalization.” The more that
something looks like– formally looks
like a reinforcer or formally looks
like a stimulus that you were trained
to respond to, the more likely you
are to respond to it. Slot machines are
real good at this. They make things
look wins a lot. You get three or four symbols
in a row, with one just off. You almost winning the
jackpot feels exciting. If you’ve ever played
a slot machine where you can see
the jackpot coming, or I think a good
example maybe is– what is it,
“The Price is Right,” with the
big wheel? How excited do you get
when it’s almost, almost, almost, almost
just barely a win? Do you guys ever
feel that tension? Right, you get
super excited? That’s essentially
what a near-miss is. It allows– if we interpret
these as nearly being a win as well, this would
dramatically increase the number of perceptual wins, or
these conditioned wins that you might
be experiencing. But this is even
better to the casinos because they don’t
have to pay for it. They don’t give
back any money. Near-miss outcomes are
associated with physiological and emotional responses
as though they are a win. Those LDWs and
near-misses, you physically act
like you just won. The other thing is that
they’re a little bit aversive. And if you nearly
win the jackpot, what do you
normally do? You’re like…
(grunting) and you hit the
button again. Like, “I don’t want
to look at that.” So one study looked at what is
that density that’s important? Can I just give you
all near-misses and will you
keep playing? And what they found
is that essentially there’s a sweet spot– you have
to be kind of in the middle. You can’t nearly
win all the time, and that makes sense as
a conditioned reinforcer. If you almost
nearly win each time, you’re gonna start identifying
that as not winning, right? So what slot machines do
is they give this out at a proportion that
helps to maintain that conditioned
reinforcement. But an interesting thing
is that near-misses aren’t simply
formally similar. They don’t just
look like a win. They can also be
psychologically like a win or verbally
like a win. This has been seen in
various other games. So for example,
roulette and blackjack– they deal
in numbers. When you look at a roulette
table, or roulette wheel… if you bet on 29
and it lands on 30, 29 and 30 are not next to
each other on the wheel. They’re not
physically close. We treat them
they are close. If you’re playing
blackjack and you get a 19 and the dealer
gets a 20, you’re like, “(groaning),
I almost won.” No, you didn’t. You lost. It just as randomly
as any other card. It could have been a 6,
it could have been a 24. It doesn’t matter–
you were just as– you were just as much a
loss as any other loss. But it feels
more like a win. Scratch-offs are
the same way. This is just a study
that I’ve been working on with some
colleagues. We looked at
how people rated how close they
were to a win, based on whether
or not they had– this is modeled after a
game that’s very common. In scratch-offs, if you
get a 7 or a 14, you win. And so, we just looked at
how close does it matter? Does it matter that
you’re really close? So in this case,
having a– being very close,
number-wise, to the win. The closer the
numerical bet to a win, the more likely you
thought it was a win. Getting a 6 or
an 8 feels better. And I actually
venture you guys, if you want to do a little
experiment for yourself, go by scratch-offs. Scratch-offs aren’t
regulated in terms of their near-miss outcomes
the way slot machines are. Slot machines have to have
a number random generator. I guarantee you, you
will always miss the win on a scratch-off
by one. For anyone who’s done it,
you almost always, almost always,
almost won. Near-miss effects and LDWs
have variously been studied and have shown a lot of
similarity in terms of EEGs and fMRIs have all demonstrated
that they look like a win. So the difference between
winning and getting a near-miss or an LDW looks
more a win to you. With people who are
pathological gamblers, they look extremely
identical. Pathological gamblers have more
difficulty distinguishing near-misses and LDWs
from wins and losses. This is some of my
current research. This was looking
at slot machines. What you’re looking at here
is the mean response latency. So what I was looking at here
is how long do you pause after winning? How long do you pause
after getting an LDW? How long do you pause after
getting nearly getting a jackpot or getting
a jackpot? And what you see here
is that winning and LDWs look
almost identical. Near-misses are a little
bit harder to detect now on these big complicated
scratch-offs, and so, what this was showing is
that LDWs play a lot bigger role in modern slot machines
than they used to. And so, what we saw is that
you are more likely to pause in a similar way as you would
a win, when you get an LDW. Which means I can give you
wins much more frequently, even though I’m not paying
you back the money. We all– what I was also able
to show is that LDW frequency– so how often I can
give you an LDW– changes how
you play. So I had people
have the option to play three different
slot machines, and they can switch between
them whenever they want. The more dense
I made the LDWs, the more likely they
were to play that game. Even though
they’re losing and even though the
slot machines paid back the exact same
amount of money. The more often
you feel like– the more often I put
something that says “You won” in front of you, the more often you will
pick that slot machine. So what do you think casino
slot machines look like? They look you’re
always winning. Now, timing makes
a big difference in terms of
gambling behavior. It’s not just the
amount of reinforcement, it’s not just
the frequency, but it’s also how
the delays work, how the timing
of it works. There’s a phenomenon
that we see in behavior that we call
“discounting,” which means when will you
trade a greater magnitude of reinforcement for a lesser,
based on some variable aspect? And it can
increase by time– we call that
“temporal discounting.” Or it can be based on
probability of the payout– we call that “probabilistic
discounting.” And so, there’s even something
called “social discounting,” which I’m not gonna
talk too much about, but that’s how
likely are you to– if I were to say, “Is $200
worth something to you?” Would you say that’s a good
chunk of money– 200 bucks? Would you give your
roommate 200 bucks if they needed
it for rent? No? What about your
brother or sister? Maybe. Guys, I can’t pay my rent–
can I have 200 bucks? Who’s gonna give
me 200 bucks? No– so how close people
are to you matter, as well. Timing and probability
matter a lot in the context
of gambling. So temporal discounting
is when we have a value of a distant
reinforcer, we start to devalue it in
favor of immediate ones. This is very,
very important in the kind of the behavioral
concept of addictions, because you’re oftentimes
trading something– an immediate
gratification– for a longer, more
valuable one, right? Does anyone think
studying is important? Studying is
important, right? Helps you do
better on a test, doing better on tests means
you’re gonna graduate, eventually getting
a good job, and it’s gonna pay
off a lot, right? Do you ever struggle
with, “Ehh, “but I could also just
go to a party today?” Why can’t you just
think about the degree and all the money you’re
gonna make later? Why is it a
struggle? Has anyone ever
been on a diet? And you have a hamburger
in front of you and say, “I shouldn’t eat this
because I want to get fit, “and I want to
be healthy, “and all of the things that
come along with that”? And then, you’re halfway
through that burger and you’re like, “Oh,
what am I doing?” Immediate gratification
is important. Reinforcement
within 30 seconds is a– one of the most strong
and influential effects in our lives in
terms of behavior. So discounting
plays a big role in terms of that
gambling behavior. Would you rather have $100
today or $1,000 in a year? Would you rather
have $1,000 today– or $100 today or
$1,000 in 10 years? We change how we’d
answer those questions. For some reason, $1,000
becomes less valuable than the
$100 today. Discounting can also
be probabilistic, and so, when you value
a reinforcers discount based on how likely
you are to win. Would you rather
have $50 guaranteed or a 10% chance
at $500? You should notice that doesn’t
really matter– they’re equal. Would you rather have
$50 guaranteed or a 0.5% chance at
winning $50,000? What would $50,000
do for you? That’s more than the
median income in Marquette. “I wouldn’t have to
work for a year.” Why won’t I take
$50 guaranteed? The chances– the
value of that $50, at least in terms of
chance, is way better, but why is $50,000 so
much more valuable? Even though the likelihood
that I would get it is so low. This is where probabilistic
discounting comes in. And the thing is, is that
individuals who gamble have extreme
difficulty with this. Gambling– pathological
gamblers will take bigger and bigger risks, despite the
lack of economic utility there. So another
aspect of this is what we call
“sequential discounting.” It’s not taking into account
the actual probability across multiple
trials. Having taken and– at various
times– taught statistics, this is such a
hard concept to even teach in an
academic standpoint, let alone remember when you’re
drinking and out having fun, is that every time
you play and lose, you have to take in the
probability of winning basically twice in order to
recapture that money, right? But if you’ve
lost three times, what do you feel like is
the likelihood of winning on the next one? Well, what study shows
is that we act as though it’s the
same probability. If you have a flip of heads and
tails, what’s the probability of winning on
any given flip? 50%, right? But if you play three
times and you lose, and you need to make
your money back, what’s the likelihood
you’re gonna win three or four times
in a row now? Is it 50%? It drops down
exponentially. Your chances go down,
and down, and down. What does a
gambler say? “Well, it’s 50%.” Here’s an example of
this on a roulette table. The first odds to
win is about 47%. You need
two wins. If you lose that first
one, the real odds to get back up
drop to 22%. You play a third time,
they’re now 11%. You play again,
it’s 5%. By the time you’ve
played five times, you’re down to
about 1% chance of actually winning
your money back. Has anyone played
roulette? It’s kind of
a fun game. It’s actually a great– if
you’re gonna play something in a casino, you’ll lose
the least amount of money the slowest. So if you want to sit around,
that’s a good game to play. But if you lose just
five times in a row, your chances of getting
your money back is about 1%. We don’t think that,
though– we think 47%. We stick to that
initial rating. So discounting
in gambling– pathological gamblers
and drug addicts have both been shown to be
prone to monetary discounting, meaning they
discount money more significantly
than other people. Measures of discounting are
also shown to predict severity of gambling
problems, so the more likely
you are to discount– which essentially is a
measurement of impulsivity– the more you are willing to
take a small outcome now for a larger more
beneficial outcome later, it is highly indicative of
the your risk to gambling and risk to
drug addiction. Pathological gamblers, however,
are much less susceptible to delayed discounting
than you’d think but are significantly
more susceptible to probabilistic
gambling. Which it’s interesting because
what’s kind of been reflected with that is that when you
talk to a pathological gambler who has money
at the moment, they will say, “No, that’s okay,
I’ll take the bigger payoff “in a week because
I won’t have money. “I’ll have spent
the money I have now.” So it’s just an interesting
thing with pathological gamblers but they’re highly susceptible
to the probabilistic discounting which is they will accept
more risk than other people. Discounting is
also contextual, which is an interesting
phenomenon with gamblers, is that gamblers may
discount more and more in certain
contexts. And so, what this study did
is they took gamblers, pathological
gamblers, and they asked them to
do delayed discounting and probabilistic
discounting tasks in a shopping mart
and in a racino, which is a casino that
does horse racing. And they’re much, much more
likely to discount heavily in the casino, where they were
fine in the grocery store. So what does
that suggest? It suggests you’re
more impulsive and more susceptible to
problems with gambling, if you put yourself
into a gambling context. It means that the
environment around you is extremely influential in
what you’re likely to do. It also suggests that
it’s more of a state or stimulus-driven
phenomenon than a trait. Because one of the things
that’s very prevalent in general mental health
thinking is, “Your dad was a gambler,
therefore you’re a gambler. “It’s just a physiological
thing– you are a gambler.” And this is kind of one approach
to mental health counseling and treatment within
gambling and addictions is the AA or GA approach
where if you’re an alcoholic, you’re always
an alcoholic. That’s part of
your identity. And what this suggests is
a little bit more nuanced than that– “you’re an alcoholic
around an alcoholic situation.” Verbal functions can also
influence discounting. So here, this is– what
this study basically did is they looked at connecting
the colored backgrounds of the slot machines
to words. So they said,
“Red is better than, “green is
worse than,” and then they started
putting those backgrounds on different
slot machines, and people would play the
“better than” slot machine which means
you’re less– even though the slot machines
pay out at the same amount, we’re very susceptible to
what the images, colors, and all those things
are connected to. Superstition
plays into it. Has anyone ever seen someone
blowing on their dice? I really like craps– it’s
one of my favorite games to go watch because people
have all these rituals. They’ll rub the table,
they’ll pick out– like, they offer
you two of six dice, and people will be like,
“Oh, I want these two.” Do you think
it matters? They’re dice– they’re
all gonna work. People bring lucky
rabbit’s feet. All of these things that people
do– they’ll even say things. They’ll talk to the dice,
they’ll ask the gods in the air. Like, “I need a 7,”
and roll the dice. Does any of that
influence it? No. Now, there’s a couple of
reasons we think this happens. One is something we call
“adventitious reinforcement.” If you happen to win when
you happen to do something, it’s likely that you are
going to continue doing that other behavior just because
of this chance reinforcement. Or maybe it happened
once or twice. This is how most
superstitions start. Does anyone have a superstition
they want to share, that they happen
to have? Anyone not walk
under ladders? It only takes a couple
of chance occurrences for a superstition
to start. Does anyone like to
sit in the same seat? They think they’re
unlucky if they sit in a different
seat in class? Those are oftentimes
powered by success, in that particular situation
but we’re attributing it to the wrong environmental
contingency. Magical requests are fun because
asking for things is helpful. When you ask someone to
help you, and they say, “Hey, can you pass
me the water?” and they pass you the water,
that gets reinforced over time. Has anyone ever asked
their car to start? Have you ever been,
“Come on, start!” What are you– who are
you talking to, right? (audience laughing)
But talking and receiving reinforcement
based on request is a common behavior that
pays off in most of our lives. So we engage in
these behaviors as though they have
some kind of control. We call this the
“illusion of control.” Many games have
illusions to them. Any number in roulette
is just as likely to come up as
any other number. Does it matter if
you pick the number? Who here plays
the lottery? We had some hands– do
you pick your numbers? No? You can either have
it randomly select your numbers or you can
put in your birthday, or your kid’s birthday,
or whatever it is. Do you put in– does anyone
use their lucky numbers? Yeah, I see some nodding
of the head– lucky numbers. Does it matter?
No. So why do
you do it? Why do you spend the extra
time typing in the number? It really doesn’t matter
but the fact that we engage in that behavior
suggests that we care. Most gambling games have some
kind of illusion of control. You could– I don’t know if
you’ve ever played scratch-offs, you can just scratch
off the barcode and hand it right
back to the cashier, and they’ll tell you
if you won or not. But I want to
scratch it off. I actually delight in scratching
it off, like it’s a ritual, something I enjoy. It means nothing. Me scratching it off or
my sister scratching it– it doesn’t
matter. I could have the
cashier do it. This study– essentially what
we’re looking at is we had– we had people come
in and play craps, and we either said, “Okay,
I’m gonna pick the number “that you
win on,” or– er, “I’m gonna pick your number,
or you pick your number.” And then, we had people have
the option of doing it. Did they let me
pick their number? No, they always want
to pick their number. People will play more,
and pay more, and play more persistently when
they have control in the game. Slot machines, you get to pick
the number of lines you have. You get to pick
when you spin. You get to pick
how much you bet. Roulette, you can
pick the numbers. Blackjack, you can hit
or you can pass. All these games have control
in them, none of it matters. It doesn’t matter–
it’s random. Roulette players are not only
susceptible to false rules– or sorry, the rule aspect is
that we can also then influence how you do it
by telling you. When the croupier for the craps
game was– or roulette game was saying, “I’m
gonna pick a number “and I’m gonna
make you lose,” versus “I’m gonna pick a
number where you win on.” Can the roulette croupier
actually control anything? No, it’s a
ball, right? It’s just going around in
a circle– it’s very random. But if I told you,
“I’m gonna help you win,” you’re more likely to keep
letting me help you bet. Rule-governed behavior is a
big part of how we operate. We engage in a lot of
behaviors based on rules. We don’t like to experience–
or rather, we don’t experience all the consequences
that exist in our lives. I don’t know about you guys,
I’ve never murdered anyone. But I continue to not murder
anyone because of rules. Rule-governed behavior
plays a big part in terms of how
gambling is perpetuated. Has anyone ever heard
“Never change your bet “or it’ll hit on
the next round”? Does anyone
feel like that? If you’re betting on red,
you’re betting on red, you’re losing,
you’re losing. What’s gonna happen
if you bet on black? Red’s gonna come up,
right, obviously? No, it doesn’t–
it’s random. But the rule helps
us continue to play. A history of
following rules predominates observed
consequences when in studies where you
give a player a rule, and that rule
seems to be true, when the rule stops
being true– meaning, if I say, “80% of the
time, it’s gonna land on black,” and you bet on black and
it feels about right, 80%, if I switch it to winning
on red 80% of the time, you will play more
you will play longer and more persistently on
black than any other people. If– instead, if you
come in with no rules, you’re much more sensitive to
when contingencies change. Such as, if you come in and
you are experiencing losses, you will
stop playing. Casinos don’t have “You lose!”
on every other bet. (chuckling)
You don’t say those things. You come in with lots of rules
and things that are set out– you know, billboards
and things, it’s like,
“Bet on red, always win!” “Never change
your bet!” All those sort
of things. Just hang out at a casino,
you’ll hear a lot of them. Rules also imply consequences
that may or may not be existing. This is what a lot of casino
advertisements look like. What’s the
rule here? “If you gamble,
you get attention.” Right? You can– applying rules helps
to change how people bet. This is kinda where
I was talking about
the accurate rules. If you have people come in and
you give them an accurate rule versus an inaccurate rule,
people are less susceptible. If you give an inaccurate
rule, people play longer. Particularly if
you start them off with something
that seems real. Transformations of stimulus
functions are also important. Gambling– there’s
a lot of imagery, a lot of different meaning
that’s attributed to gambling. This, a lot of times,
has sexual images. If you’ve ever played
slot machines, they’re– you go into a casino, there’s
thousands of slot machines all with different images,
right, different themes. They usually have
something in common with either
sexual images, vacation pictures,
movie images. You notice half of them are,
like, shirtless adventurer guys or princesses and
things like that, or something to do with being
in Hawaii or being in Vegas. A lot of them have
to do with movies. Ellen has a
slot machine. I don’t– why would you
play Ellen’s slot machine? I don’t know. But it has to do with what that
verbal content means to you. By virtue of verbal
associations or what we call relational
frames between the slot machine and your particular
history with other stimuli, you are more likely to
discriminate a slot machine as having a better
probability. What is Robin Hood
known for? What does Robin Hood do?
>>(indistinct).>>Yeah, he robs from the
rich, gives to the poor. “Casinos are rich,
I am poor. “Robin Hood is gonna
give me the money.” There is no reason to play
the Robin Hood slot machine over any other
slot machine. First slot machine
I ever played was a husky–
it was wild huskies. I have two huskies, I said,
“That’s my machine.” I picked that one out
of everything else. So I feel like I have some
control in that situation. I mean, “This
machine favors me.” I don’t know anything about the
probability of wild huskies. I can tell you
I lost on it. But I picked that one
out of all the others. Why? It’s because the
verbal content had some reinforcement
history in my life. I like hanging out
with my huskies, I get to sit near huskies,
it feels reinforcing. So the verbal content
matters a lot in how we bet. If you were gonna
bet on horse racing, do you want to go with
Slowpokemagoo or Speedy Dan? Yeah, I feel like people
are gonna be contrary here. But obviously, Slowpokemagoo is
not who you’re gonna go with. That could be Slowpokemagoo,
that can be Speedy Dan. We’re gonna ignore
that stimuli, though, because of the verbal
content to the name. Have you ever looked at the
names of horses in horse racing? What are they? Quicksilver and,
you know, Lightning. They’re not Frumpy or
Left Foot or something. They’re always something that
has to do with being fast. Those things confuse us from
the actual probabilities. This has been shown in a
number of different places. One study that I helped to
do, we essentially trained– we had people pick out– we had
a virtual horse racing image with different
colored horses. We let people
bet on them. They bet on whichever
color they happened to like, or whatever
was random. Then, we taught them
that certain colors indicated that they
needed to tap quickly or tap slowly
on a button. Then we’d put them back
in the horse race game and they would pick the
color that we associated with the speed
of the horse. It had nothing to do
with the probability of actually winning. Just simply some history
of verbal content. So those are little
things about the game but it’s still– one
of the difficulties is understanding, “Well,
why do you still gamble? “Why are you even in the
casino to begin with?” Now, in terms of
behavioral treatment, behavior analysts tend
to focus on function or what you get out
of the behavior. Applied behavior analysis
usually seeks to influence those behaviors by
identifying what is different in the environment after
you engage in the behavior, and then we use that to
create behavior support plans. The shape of the behavior
is less important. And so, in this case,
we’d say gambling is an outcome,
not the cause. Do you have problems with
gambling because you gamble, or because there’s something
that leads to gambling? Gambling is just an
indicator, an outcome. So we start looking at what
you actually get out of it, and what we call
the “function.” Do you gamble to gain
money and free drinks? Do you gamble because
of the social event and the friends and the
attention you get with this? Do you gamble because
it distracts you, it helps you escape
from your life? Maybe you just like all the
pretty lights and sound. What do you
guys think? If you are a
problem gambler, if you have pathological
gambling, why do you gamble?>>(indistinct).
>>Distraction?>>(indistinct).
>>Escape. Research is using something
called the “gambling
functional assessment.” It’s a survey. Attempted to build a
questionnaire around this and see,
“Do you play– “do you seem to be
attracted to the games “for their sensory
components? “Do you seem to do it for
escape, attention, tangibles?” And what’s been found kind
of over, and over, and over is that pathological
gamblers are more likely to indicate gambling
for escape. What’s kinda been the pathway
that’s been observed is, many times,
people begin to gamble first for the positive
reinforcement. It’s for gaining
access to the sensory and the tangible
aspects of it. But inevitably, if you are
becoming a pathological gambler, it is to escape the context
in which– uh, of your life. Difficulties at home,
difficulties socially, difficulties in
terms of your work. Very often,
that’s the aspect. It’s trying to escape the
dreariness of your life. This is very consistent with
the substance abuse addictions– they almost invariably
have that same pathway, starting with kind of
a positive reinforcement, initially doing drugs
in order to feel good, and eventually just
to not feel bad. So what do
we know then? Gambling seems to be
maintained by weak control of the actual
contingencies. So when you play
a gambling game, it’s not being controlled by
the probability of winning, but by these other effects that
present win-like outcomes. High rates of small wins
seem to be important, and high rates of
conditioned reinforcers that look like wins
seem to control gambling much more than
actually winning. So you can’t say to a gambler,
“But you don’t win very often. “You’re losing money.” They’ll say, “No,
I come back winning.” This is an interesting thing
if you just ask people about their gambling
experience, people who gamble. They never say, “Oh,
I went and I lost.” Right? Almost every person
who has gambling issues seems to think they win
more often than they don’t. Nobody does, unless you play
parimutuel games like poker, where you’re only
playing other people, then that’s a scenario
where you can win. It’s a little bit
different, though. Immediate outcomes are
generally more stronger than those that
are distant. So being able to
gain money right now versus waiting and working
seemed to be important. And we follow developed rules
that can be inaccurate and contain information
about contingencies that keep us
from detecting what’s actually
happening here and now. Then, if gambling
is a behavior, and if we look at
it as a behavior instead of
the outcome– so if we say,
“You gamble “because of these
other functions,” rather than “Gambling
is your problem,” then it allows us to
start talking about what are the contingencies
for different people, why does an
individual gamble? So, then, that leads us to
talking about treatment. So I’m going to talk about one
particular treatment approach that comes from
behavior analytics, conceptualizations,
because it helps us to address
these issues. This is something
called “Acceptance “and Commitment
Therapy.” It’s actually a
broad approach to cognitive behavior
therapy or training, and it focuses on a number
of aspects within that– with those issues that I talked
about with gambling here. So in a nutshell, the
overall goal of ACT is to create psychological
flexibility, and the ability to engage
with your environment in a manner in which
you are observational rather than
reactive. And I’m gonna go through these
a little bit more in detail with how we deal with
them in gambling but what I mean there is
that one of the problems when you’re gambling is that
you are not paying attention to the
consequences. You’re not paying attention
to how often you lose. If you were, you
would walk away. Because you lose more
often than you win, by the nature
of gambling. Accepting rather
than avoiding. And so, here, we’re
talking about individuals who are trying to
escape a situation, escaping discomfort in their
life, and trying to avoid it. We need to get them to
accept the discomfort. That doesn’t mean that
it’s gonna feel good, but it means that you don’t
need to react to that. You can just sit with being
uncomfortable for a minute and allow yourself to get
to the other side of it. Considerate of both the formal
and the psychological functions in the environment. And so, what I mean by
that is when you walk in and you see a slot machine
that says “Robin Hood,” that you say, “I understand
that that has Robin Hood, “and Robin Hood gives
to the rich and–” or sorry, “steals from the
rich and gives to the poor. “But that doesn’t
have anything to do “with this physical stimulus
that’s in front of me.” I’m not on
a hot hand… or a cool hand, as
they would say, too. None of those
things matter. The probability of the
game is still the same. And then, engaging
in behaviors that are consistent with people
with their own values, and then engaging
in behaviors with goals that are
associated with those values. So what we try to do
is we help gamblers to be in contact with
the present moment. If you’ve heard of mindfulness,
this is a similar concept. What we’re trying to do is
to help people take a moment, step back from the urge and
the feeling of what’s going on, and instead, experience
what’s happening. When you think about stimuli
within your environment, we only really pay
attention to the things that we feel like
have consequence. I don’t know about you
guys, but if you noticed this little thing
on the wall? It has not been important but
it’s been here the whole time. It’s not been important
for you to respond to. Gambling games
create a context where you only are paying
attention to the win. Instead, we try to get
people to pay attention to everything else
that’s going on. You guys been
in a casino? They smell like cigarettes,
they’re not comfortable, they’re kind of gross,
they make you anxious. Similar context
I think is… has anyone eaten a
McDonald’s sandwich recently? Are they gourmet?
Not really. If you slow down and you eat a
McDonald’s sandwich very slowly, I guarantee you, you’ll start to
be like, “This is really salty, “and the texture
is kind of gross. “I don’t know why
I’m eating it.” But if you eat
it mindlessly, you just quickly eat, you
don’t realize all the things that are going
on with it. And so, we try to get people
to slow down and be mindful. Try to pay attention to
what they’re feeling, what they’re seeing,
what they’re sensing, and this helps people to
step back from the urge. It’s like,
“I have to play.” This is why I
challenge people, “Go sit in front of a slot
machine and NOT play. “Play once every
30 seconds.” It’s hard– it induces
a sense of mindlessness, and we have to teach people
to slow down and step back. We try to help people
take a moment to observe what’s going on in
their environment and, in doing so, make contact
with the actual consequences. As part of my
dissertation, I sat with people and I
helped them to identify what the outcomes of the actual
slot– the slot outcome was. Where they’d say– I’d say,
“Hey, what was your outcome?” They’d be like,
“I won 10 cents!” I’d be like,
“No, you lost 30. “Say ‘I lost 30.'” Step back,
take a moment, and get out of the
cycle of the urge. By taking contact with
the better moment, it helps us step back
from that autopilot and to make
better decisions, as well as actually
notice the consequences and contingencies
as they occur. Acceptance refers to being able
to sit with the discomfort. So we try to
help people learn not to run away from
negative feelings and urges associated
with gambling. So for example, when you feel
like, “I need to gamble,” we say,
“No, you don’t. “Just sit with that–
that’s just a thought. “Watch that thought come,
watch that thought go. “You don’t have
to react to it. “Let’s sit and watch
it for a second. “I need to gamble,
I need to gamble. “Did you burst
into flames?” No, it’s uncomfortable but
the more you can sit with it, the easier it becomes to
let those things pass. The same with
negative feelings. We said a lot
of people gamble because they’re trying to escape
an uncomfortable situation in life– their girlfriend,
husband, wife, partner is not happy
with them, they have a bad relationship
with their kids. Maybe they don’t have
those things anymore, and they feel
depressed. And so, what we’re
trying to do with them is teach them, “That’s
okay to have those feelings. “You don’t have to
run away from them. “Having them is part
of normal life.” Sit with them. If you can learn
to sit with them– that doesn’t mean be okay with
the outcomes of those things, but to be able to accept
that, “I do not have to act “because of these things
and I can be uncomfortable “for a little while,” helps
people to get past the urges. At the same time,
the gambler must learn that it’s okay
to feel bad. This is difficult for people
in Western society. How does all of
our stories end? “Happily
ever after.” Do you feel like you
should be happy? Do you feel like your
job should satisfy you? Do you feel like you should get
home at the end of the day and you should be happy
to see your kids? We put a lot of investment
in being happy but the reality is, how often do
you feel frustrated with work? What is being frustrated with
work urge you on to do? It’ll help you change
things, right? Being uncomfortable
is important. It’s important and it
helps us be motivated. If you were not fearful
or anxious about the test that you guys are gonna
take, would you study? No, we need to feel a
little bit of those things. Those are part of our
normal behavioral systems, and so, we need to help
people to be okay with it instead of running
away from it. If you get
too anxious because of a test that’s
coming, do you study? Most of the time,
you don’t. You get too anxious and
you start avoiding it, you start engaging
in procrastination. So we need to help people
be like, “It’s okay “that I’m uncomfortable right
now, I don’t need to gamble “in order to escape this feeling
of my kids don’t love me.” We help to do something what
we call “cognitive diffusion,” or diffusion in general,
it’s a process in which we help people to
disassociate the functions, the verbal stimuli,
and the rules. And so, it’ll help– we try to
help people see different ways to respond more contextually
and flexibly to situations. “I don’t have any
money for rent. “I need to gamble
so I can make rent.” Okay, that’s
one way. What you’re saying is,
“I don’t have any rent “and I could
gamble.” Right? “I’m feeling distressed,
I need to escape.” No, you’re feeling distressed
and you want to escape. Changing that context can help
people to make better decisions. The rules that
we get stuck in, particularly with
respect to ourselves, can really be detrimental to
what our actual life context is. I was a competitive
athlete in college and I hurt my back,
and I couldn’t play. I was a martial artist
and I kept saying, “But I’m a
martial artist, “I can keep eating
the way that I was. “I can keep doing all
the things that I did, “even though I’m not engaging
in any of the behaviors of it.” It led to me
gaining weight and being very unhappy
with my athletic ability. Every time I’d go out to
run or do whatever it was, I couldn’t run
at the same speed, I couldn’t do all the
things at the same speed. But I kept telling myself,
“But I’m an athlete.” It ended up making me
not want to workout ever. Has anyone ever
experienced that? I always think of this–
this is the high school
football player syndrome. Like, they keep saying–
you know, I was the quarterback throughout
their lives but they have no connection
to that anymore, but they act as
though they are. We need to help people
see beyond that. We have to help them to
break some of the rules that they’re
stuck in. “If I’m on a hot hand,
I can’t give up.” Yeah, you can. What’s interesting,
by the way, is– it speaks to the
fallacies of gambling is we talked about the hot–
or the “cold hand,” right? So the gambler’s fallacy–
“I’ve lost, I’ve lost, “I need to keep
playing to win.” Gamblers will turn that around
and do the same thing– they call that
the “hot hand.” Should you walk away from
the to blackjack table when you’re doing
well… right? If you’ve won
three times in a row, you’re gonna win
the next time, right? So the fallacies
go either way. We work on something we
call “self as context,” so we help people to learn to
notice thoughts and feelings and urges not as themselves,
but as something that you do. There is no difference
between your thoughts and your attitudes
and your feelings from any other
behavior. When you have thoughts, you
are responding to something. There’s nothing special
about your thought versus you jumping
up and down. And why that’s important
is to help people say that when they are thinking
that they need to gamble, that we can help them say,
“That’s just you thinking that. “That’s you
doing a thing, “it’s not something
that’s higher than you. “It’s not intrinsically
part of you. “It’s just simply you are
reacting to the environment “in a particular way, and you
can or cannot do that behavior. “You have a
choice there.” And this again comes
back to we help people to sit in the presence
of their feelings. A lot of this psychotherapy
is done in the context of metaphor and talk,
and so we’ll play games where we’ll have people describe
what they are thinking, and help them to start to see
their own thought process as simply behavior that
they’re engaging in. It helps people
to step back and to sit with
uncomfortable thoughts. It’s kind of similar to
the way people journal… like, why you have
people journal, so that they can look back
at their own thoughts. It’s– however, the goal here
is to get you disconnected from feeling that if
you say, “I’m stupid, “no one loves me,”
that you understand that you are just the
one saying those things. They’re not connected
to the environment. They’re not connected
to the consequences in terms of
being true but it’s rather just the
behavior you’re engaging in. Now, I think here is where we
get into the most important part of acceptance
commitment training, is to focus
on values, and so, what that is
is we help people to focus on how they’re going
to evaluate their behavior rather than being
overly goal-oriented. And so, I’ll sit with people
and I’ll say things like, “So you know it
sounds like you– “you know, you’ve said
that you’re gambling “because you’re trying
to earn money “so that your family
can go on vacation. “That sounds like you really
care about your family. “You really value the
happiness of your family.” “Yeah that’s–
I really do. “I really care that
my kids are happy.” Okay. “When you look at
your behavior today, “would you say that that
lives up to the value “of making your
family happy?” “Well, no, I
gambled $4,000.” “Okay, what are you
planning to do tomorrow?” “Well, I’m planning
to do this and this.” How would you
evaluate that? A game that I like
to play with people is called the
“eulogy metaphor.” I usually turn it around to,
“If you won the lottery,” but that’s not good in
the gambling context. But I say, “If you
disappeared tomorrow, “you passed away or you got
a new job, you moved away, “what would people
say about you?” Would they say you
were really friendly? You were a good–
you were a loyal person, you were a
trustworthy person? Usually what people say
what they want to be, that’s kind of
their value. Then, what we do is we
start to turn that around and say, “Have you lived up
to your value this week? “Have you lived up to
your value this day?” And start getting people
to plan around their value rather than outcomes that
are not always possible, because we said reinforcement
needs to occur quickly. Delays to
reinforcement make us engage in
impulsive behavior, so if we can get the
reinforcers more quickly, then we can help
people to live a little bit more
satisfied life. And part of what– and in order
to do that, we have to get them to evaluate their own
behavior in the moment. This leads us to
committed action, which is essentially helping
people to make a plan. So this is where contingency
management comes in and we start coming up with,
“What are you gonna do tomorrow? “Let’s write it down.” if you can get
those things done, then we’re gonna build a
reinforcement system around it. So we build goals for people
to do that are based on their values,
and then help them manage their own
reinforcement around it. So that’s the
end of my talk. I think we have time
for questions now unless I burned up
all the time talking. This is a
hotline for NC– uh, the National Commission
on Problem Gambling. If you have issues,
please call them. If you do gamble,
gamble responsibly. And if you’re interested
in just reading more about the things that I
talked about today, here’s a book chapter
that I helped author, that goes in these
things more detailed. So thanks, guys,
for listening. (applause)>>I know several of you
that have to get to class, or to work, or maybe
try out the casino. It’s a bit of a drive.
(audience chuckling) But we do have two faculty
member here from Northern. If you have any interest
about making your next journey up to the UP and spending
the next couple years at a truly good
university, I’m certain they’d be happy
to talk to you a moment about what it’s like
being a student up there. I know that they do
have a plane to catch in a little bit here, but
got a couple of minutes. Have a great
semester. You’ve got one week
of classes next week and then study
for those exams. Big part of
finishing out strong, so have a great end
of your school year!

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