Gambling on Smartphones: A study of a potentially addictive behaviour in a naturalistic setting [open access article]

Abstract: Smartphone users engage extensively with their devices, on an intermittent basis for short periods of time. These patterns of behaviour have the potential to make mobile gambling especially perseverative. This paper reports the first empirical study of mobile gambling in which a simulated gambling app was used to measure gambling behaviour in phases of acquisition and extinction. We found that participants showed considerable perseverance in the face of continued losses that were linearly related to their prior engagement with the app. Latencies between gambles were associated with the magnitude of reinforcement; more positive outcomes were associated with longer breaks between play and a greater propensity to end a gambling session. Greater latencies were associated with measurements of problem gambling, and perseverance with gambling-related cognitions and sensation-seeking behaviour. Access full article

Citation: James, R.J.E., O’Malley C., & Tunney R.J. (2019). European Addiction Research, 25, 30–40. DOI: 10.1159/000495663

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Excessive social media users demonstrate impaired decision making in the Iowa Gambling Task [open access article]

Background and aims: Online social networking sites (SNSs) like Facebook provide users with myriad social rewards. These social rewards bring users back to SNSs repeatedly, with some users displaying maladaptive, excessive SNS use. Symptoms of this excessive SNS use are similar to symptoms of substance use and behavioral addictive disorders. Importantly, individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders have difficulty making value-based decisions, as demonstrated with paradigms like the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT); however, it is currently unknown if excessive SNS users display the same decision-making deficits. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to investigate the relationship between excessive SNS use and IGT performance.

Methods: We administered the Bergen Facebook Addiction Scale (BFAS) to 71 participants to assess their maladaptive use of the Facebook SNS. We next had them perform 100 trials of the IGT to assess their value-based decision making. Results: We found a negative correlation between BFAS score and performance in the IGT across participants, specifically over the last block of 20 trials. There were no correlations between BFAS score and IGT performance in earlier blocks of trials.

Discussion: Our results demonstrate that more severe, excessive SNS use is associated with more deficient value based decision making. In particular, our results indicate that excessive SNS users may make more risky decisions during the IGT task. Conclusion: This result further supports a parallel between individuals with problematic, excessive SNS use, and individuals with substance use and behavioral addictive disorders. Access full article

Citation: Meshi, D., Elizarova, A., Bender, A., & Verdejo-Garcia, A. (2018). Journal of Behavioral Addictions. DOI: 10.1556/2006.7.2018.138

Mindfulness problems and depression symptoms in everyday life predict dark flow during slots play: Implications for gambling as a form of escape. [subscription access article]

Abstract: Slot machine players refer to a state of absorption that researchers have labeled dark flow. Players become completely occupied by the game and forget everything else (leading to “dark” consequences such as spending more money than intended). We propose that players who experience dark flow have difficulty staying on task in everyday life, but, the reinforcing sights and sounds of slot machines rein in these otherwise wandering minds and induce these flow-like states. We assessed 129 gamblers for mindfulness problems (using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale), gambling problems (using the Problem Gambling Severity Index), and depressive symptoms (using the Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale). Participants played a slot machine simulator and were periodically interrupted with thought probes to assess whether they were thinking about the game or about something else. After playing, we retrospectively assessed dark flow and positive affect during play.

Our key results were that mindfulness problems outside of the gambling context were positively correlated with depression, problem gambling status, and most importantly, dark flow within the gambling context. Dark flow was positively correlated with positive affect during play and the combination of dark flow and depression predicted gambling problems. The picture that emerges is that individuals with mindfulness problems in everyday life find their attention locked in by slot machines inducing dark flow, which in turn leads to a state of positive affect. For depressed players especially, this state may be enjoyable because it provides an escape from the negative mentation linked to depression that characterizes the everyday lives of these troubled players. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Dixon, M. J., Gutierrez, J., Stange, M., Larche, C. J., Graydon, C., Vintan, S., Kruger, T. B. (2019). Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, Jan 07, no pagination specified. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved).

Internet-based interventions for problem gambling: Scoping review [open access article]

Background: This study seeks to give an overview of academic research on internet-based interventions that are used to address problem gambling. The rate of treatment seeking has been demonstrated to be low across several research environments. This is in part because of the systemic barriers that treatment seekers face to accessing traditional face-to-face treatment. Making treatment resources for problem gambling available through the internet is one way to reduce the impact of those systemic barriers. The use of internet-based resources to address problem gambling has been growing, and a field of research evaluating it has developed as well. However, little has been done to summarize this collection of research. Access full article

Citation: Van der Maas, M., Shi, J., Elton-Marshall, T., Hodgins, D. C., Sanchez, S., Lobo, D. S., Hagopian, S., Turner, N. E. (2019). JMIR Mental Health, 6(1), e65. DOI: 10.2196/mental.9419