When Psychology Meet Gambling

Gambling is a popular activity that involves, of course, wagering money in different games, for example, slot games, poker, bingo, and so on. 
Gambling has never been easier, with many casinos now offering their services online as well as in-person, so it comes as no surprise that the market continues to rise.
In the decades since, psychologists and other medical researchers have arrived in leaps and bounds to discover the true impact of gambling on our brains, because it is clear that psychology is related to gambling.
Although many people believe gambling is based solely on the luck of the draw, casinos and similar establishments are extremely calculated in the way they operate.
Most people have probably heard the phrase ‘the house always wins’, referring to the fact that the odds are always in favor of the casino or similar establishment.
Despite knowing this, the industry uses several different psychology-based tactics to convince people that gambling is a low-risk/high reward activity.
Although these methods vary slightly depending on the establishment, one of the most common tactics is to highlight the profiles of those who win the casino jackpot.
Doing this personalizes the experience to other players and convinces them there is a higher probability of winning the jackpot themselves than is the case. 
As a result, people continue to make bets in the belief that it is leading them one step closer to winning the casino jackpot, a fate they may never really reach. 
Another common psychological practice used to reinforce gambling behaviors is to reward introductory players with small wins. 
By doing this, people convince themselves they are having a lucky streak or have found a way of overcoming the odds, and are thus encouraged to continue to place more bets. 
The downside to this method is that a large number of players will never see any of the money they ‘won’ from their original bet. 
Despite this, they will continue to put more of their money into the gambling game because of their previous win, and the cycle is likely to repeat itself. 
In fact, throughout the history of gambling, overspending was simply seen as living beyond your means or being stupid and oblivious to your other commitments. 
The perception only really started to change in the 1980s, during preparations to publish the fourth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
For this edition, after much discussion, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) officially classed pathological gambling as an impulse-control disorder. 
This meant that pathological gambling, at least medically, was changed from a harmless hobby to an illness considered similar to other disorders, like kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania. 
Essentially, this meant that psychologists believed gambling behaviors were performed in an attempt to relieve feelings of anxiety. 
At the time, this was considered a breakthrough because it was one of the first times people admitted that the dangerous side to gambling could have a medical cause. 
Even though it had officially been declared a medical issue, however, many were still reluctant to believe that pathological gambling was a real thing.
Without any significant research into the true impact gambling could have on someone’s psychological wellbeing, it was difficult for people to see the validity behind this diagnosis.
Despite backlash from both the medical community and the general public alike, researchers continued to study the true impact gambling could have on our lives.
This led to further revelations that helped to convince people of the validity behind the diagnosis and transformed the way we view gambling to this day. 
Following the first identification of pathological gambling as a psychological problem, researchers in the medical field began dedicating more time to understanding the condition. 
This led to significant debate about whether calling gambling a compulsion went far enough, with some noticing similarities between gambling addictions and more traditional addictions like heroin or cocaine addiction. 
This led to several studies, including a notable one from the University of Cambridge, that looked into how gambling affects the brain. 
In this study, it was found that gambling stimulates a region near the center of the brain called the striatum, otherwise known as the reward center.
As with other addictions, this part of the brain responds to reinforcers that encourage someone to repeat the behavior.

Feb 15, 2022