Interesting articles on how the brain works and how gamblers brains work.
Read the article on Neurophilosophy: Near misses fuel gambling addiction
The terms “tolerance” and “withdrawal” are normally associated with drug addiction, and indeed pathological gambling is now considered as being akin to substance abuse. We know, for example, that monetary wins activate the brain’s reward circuitry. In pathological gamblers, however, these responses are dampened, so that increasingly larger wins are needed to produce the same……rewarding effects. And according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, near misses fuel the habit in regular gamblers, because they are almost as rewarding as wins.
Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute in Cambridge have previously found that the brain responds to near miss gambling outcomes in much the same way it does to as winning. In moderate gamblers, both types of outcome activate the reward circuitry, and although near miss events are experienced to be somewhat less rewarding than wins, they nevertheless increase the desire and motivation to gamble. For games involving skill, near misses indicate an improvement in performance and spur the player to try again. But gambling is a game of chance, which distorts gamblers’ thought processes – near misses cause them gambler to overestimate both the level of skill involved and their chances of winning. This spurs them to continue gambling.
Manufacturers of gambling games have apparently known the rewarding effects of near misses all along, and they design slot machines in such a way as to exploit the cognitive distortions of gamblers. Using a technique called clustering, they create a high number of failures that are close to wins, so that what the player sees is a misrepresentation of the probabilities and randomness that the game involves. The gambler who nearly hits the jackpot will therefore want to continue playing, because he thinks he has a good chance of winning.