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).

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Testing an Incentive-Sensitisation Approach to Understanding Problem Slot-Machine Gambling Using an Online Slot-Machine Simulation

By Davey, B., & Cummins, R.

Abstract: This study aims to test the application of the incentive-sensitisation theory to slot-machine gambling behaviour. The theory posits that for problem gamblers (PGs), gambling strengthens the response of motivational pathways in the mid-brain to gambling cues, eliciting strong wanting, independent of liking. Non-problem gamblers (NPGs) experience weaker changes to motivational pathways so liking and wanting remain associated. Hence, it is predicted that wanting to gamble will be greater than liking for PGs but there will be no difference for NPGs; wanting will be greater for PGs than for NPGs; and, wanting but not liking will predict whether PGs continue gambling, whereas both will predict this for NPGs. During gambling on an online simulated slot-machine, 39 PGs and 87 NPGs rated “liking” and “wanting”. Participants played at least 3 blocks of 10–20 spins, and then had the option of playing up to 4 additional blocks; to continue playing they had to complete an effortful task, so that “number of blocks played” acted as an additional indirect measure of wanting. Results supported hypotheses except on the indirect measure of wanting (the number of blocks played).

Davey, B., & Cummins, R. (2017). Testing an Incentive-Sensitisation Approach to Understanding Problem Slot-Machine Gambling Using an Online Slot-Machine Simulation. Journal of Gambling Studies, 1–12. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-017-9718-y

 

Why are Some Games More Addictive than Others: The Effects of Timing and Payoff on Perseverance in a Slot Machine Game – Open Access

Manipulating different behavioral characteristics of gambling games can potentially affect the extent to which individuals persevere at gambling, and their transition to problematic behaviors. This has potential impact for mobile gambling technologies and responsible gambling interventions. Two laboratory models pertinent to this are the partial reinforcement extinction effect (PREE) and the trial spacing effect. Both of these might speed up or delay the acquisition and extinction of conditioned behavior. We report an experiment that manipulated the rate of reinforcement and inter trial interval (ITI) on a simulated slot machine where participants were given the choice between gambling and skipping on each trial, before perseverative gambling was measured in extinction, followed by measurements of the illusion of control, depression and impulsivity. We hypothesized that longer ITI’s in conjunction with the low rates of reinforcement observed in gambling would lead to greater perseverance. We further hypothesized, given that timing is known to be important in displaying illusory control and potentially in persevering in gambling, that prior exposure to longer intervals might affect illusions of control.

Source: James, R. J. E., O’Malley, C., & Tunney, R. J. (2016). Why are Some Games More Addictive than Others: The Effects of Timing and Payoff on Perseverance in a Slot Machine Game. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00046

Changes in minors’ gambling on slot machines in Finland after the raising of the minimum legal gambling age from 15 to 18 years: A repeated cross-sectional study

AIM – The legal gambling age in Finland was raised from 15 to 18 years in 2010, but slot machines were given a transition period that ended with the full law coming into effect on 1 July 2011. The widespread accessibility of slot machines and their popularity among youth led us to consider how age limit was enforced in the Finnish gambling monopoly system and to analyse how underage gambling on slot machines changed after the raising of the minimum age.

METHODS – Two nationwide cross-sectional surveys were conducted in 2011 and 2013 (12–18-year-olds; N=8101; average response rate 42%). The main measure was self-reported six-month prevalence of slot machine use overall and by venue (shops; kiosks; petrol stations; restaurants/cafés; ship travels to Sweden/Estonia; other). Changes from 2011 to 2013 were tested by using the χ2 tests and multivariate logistic regression analyses. As a reference group only, 18-year-olds were analysed, as they were of legal age to gamble.

Source: Raisamo, S., Warpenius, K., & Rimpelä, A. (2015). Changes in minors’ gambling on slot machines in Finland after the raising of the minimum legal gambling age from 15 to 18 years: A repeated cross-sectional study. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 32(6), 579–590.