Increased Urge to Gamble Following Near-Miss Outcomes May Drive Purchasing Behaviour in Scratch Card Gambling (full text)

Madison Stange, Candice Graydon, Mike J. Dixon

Previous research into scratch card gambling has highlighted the effects of these games on players’ arousal and affective states. Specifically, near-miss outcomes in scratch cards (uncovering 2 of 3 needed jackpot symbols) have been associated with high levels of physiological and subjective arousal and negative emotional evaluations, including increased frustration. We sought to extend this research by examining whether near-misses prompted increases in gambling urge, and the subsequent purchasing of additional scratch cards. Participants played two scratch cards with varying outcomes with half of the sample experiencing a near-miss for the jackpot prize, and the other half experiencing a regular loss. Players rated their urge to continue gambling after each game outcome, and following the initial playing phase, were then able to use their winnings to purchase additional cards. Our results indicated that near-misses increased the urge to gamble significantly more than regular losses, and urge to gamble in the near-miss group was significantly correlated with purchasing at least one additional card. Although some players in the loss group purchased another card, there was no correlation between urge to gamble and purchasing in this group. Additionally, participants in the near-miss group who purchased additional cards reported higher levels of urge than those who did not purchase more cards. This was not true for the loss group: participants who experienced solely losing outcomes reported similar levels of urge regardless of whether or not they purchased more scratch cards. Despite near-misses’ objective status as monetary losses, the increased urge that follows near-miss outcomes may translate into further scratch card gambling for a subset of individuals.

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Reinforcing Small Wins and Frustrating Near-Misses: Further Investigation Into Scratch Card Gambling – Open Access

Scratch card games are incredibly popular in the Canadian marketplace. However, only recently have researchers started to systematically analyze their structural characteristics and how these in turn affect the gambler. We present two studies designed to further understand the underlying physiological and psychological effects that scratch cards have on gamblers. We had gamblers (63 in Experiment 1, 68 in Experiment 2) play custom made scratch cards involving a small win, a regular loss and a near-miss—where they uncovered two out of the three symbols needed to win the top prize. Our predictions were that despite near-misses and losses being objectively equivalent (the gambler wins nothing) gamblers’ reactions to these outcomes would differ dramatically. During game play, skin conductance levels and heart rate were recorded, as well as how long gamblers paused between each game. Gamblers’ subjective reactions to the different outcomes were then assessed. In both studies, near-misses triggered higher levels of physiological arousal (skin conductance levels and heart rates) than losses. Gamblers paused significantly longer following small wins than other outcomes, and reported high arousal, positive affect and urge to gamble—a constellation of results consistent with their rewarding properties. Importantly near-miss outcomes were rated as highly arousing, negative in emotional tone, and the most frustrating of all three outcome types examined. In Experiment 2, when we measured subjective urge to gamble immediately after each outcome, urge to gamble was significantly higher following near-misses than regular losses. Thus, despite not rewarding the gambler with any monetary gain, these outcomes nevertheless triggered higher arousal and larger urges to gamble than regular losses, a finding that may explain in part, the allure of scratch cards as a gambling activity.