Gambling Psychology—Why Do We Gamble?

Gambling Psychology—Why Do We Gamble?

Gambling produces a power illusion our brains are predisposed to be over-confident, such as the illusion of wisdom that can leave us with a false sense of security regarding the everyday choices we make, because our brain actually refuses to accept that we do not understand anything obvious or are unable to make a precise informed guess.

This trust is strengthened by the illusion of power provided to us by gambling games or the assumption that we can use skill to affect an outcome solely determined by chance. It may be either taking a higher risk and therefore playing at casino sites with high stakes, or a sudden feeling of luck that triggers a single incredibly high bet.

Betting and winning offers a natural high for us

Why would we gamble if we know that ‘the house always wins’ and that we’re much more likely to lose than to win? Gambling seems like a very contradictory practice. And it is thrilling to take chances. Simple as that. Plus, there’s an enticing promise that we’re going to win big if we win—getting something for nothing. When people win money, scientists have discovered a pattern of brain activity. The striatum, an area in the middle of the brain, is a significant part of the reward process and is also involved in the processing of natural reinforcements such as food and sexual stimulation and also abuse substances such as cocaine and other drugs.

Gambling addiction and opioid addiction share many of the same neural pathways, according to studies in neuroscience. So obviously, winning would immediately produce a natural high, but for some people, the build-up to it can be just as intense and exciting stimulator. As you await the final score of the game, the numbers on the lottery, or the next card drawn, the feeling of suspense produces an adrenalin rush that many people are searching for in entertainment.

The Fallacy of the Gambler

The gambler’s fallacy is another thought mistake behind gambling motivation that leads individuals to false expectations of predicting or affecting the result of a chance-based game. Players assign greater chances of a favorable result based on previous results in this situation. Essentially, this is what roulette progression techniques are based on, the assumption that you will ultimately win if you keep betting and raising your bet on, let’s say, red. Ultimately, this results in maxing your bets on red with almost no confidence that it will prove to be a win.

The odds of becoming black again are 50/50, even after 100 black spins. The most common illusions are that adjusting bet sizes (or progression) makes you win and that you will be helped to walk away with a profit by an eventual win. In fact, previous spins do not impact potential spins in any way and you should not use long-term balance as a failure-safe strategy. You will finally hit the maximum bet if you keep increasing your wagers, so the reward of an eventual win will not be enough to offset previous losses. The belief in ‘evening out’ or the illusion that after consecutive defeats you are in for an overdue victory is the fallacy of the gambler.

Aversion against defeat

With the idea of losing, no one starts gambling. Losing is, to put it lightly, awkward. Research has shown that individuals who put another bet directly after losing are actually more irked than the thrill of a potential win by the annoyance of defeat. Other studies suggest that women are more worried with being seen losing, so they tend to prefer more private games, such as slots, where that will not be so apparent. On the other hand, men prefer games where they think they can exert more ability and not rely too much on chance.

For instance, they select games commonly considered to be skill-based like poker (although chance often plays a huge role in it) where cognitive mechanisms such as the illusion of control make them feel like they can crack a pattern or formulate a plan to swing their odds. Even if they lose hundreds of pounds playing poker, their self-assertive nature would concentrate attention on the fact that they can afford to lose that amount of money, obscuring the shame of defeat.

Their attitude towards losing is also different. In the long run, not so much for the thrill of a possible victory, but rather in an effort to cover past losses, people who experience enormous losses continue to gamble. How impossible such a tactic is to yield a victory is one thing that eludes their clouded judgment. This pattern is called ‘loss chasing’ and is one of compulsive gambling’s main features.