How sound and visual effects on slot machines increase the allure of gambling

February 27, 2020

The sights and sounds of winning on a slot machine may increase your desire to play--and your memories of winning big, according to new research by University of Alberta scientists.

The study, led by Professor Marcia Spetch in the Department of Psychology, shows that people prefer to play on virtual slot machines that provide casino-related cues, such as the sound of coins dropping or symbols of dollar signs.

"These results show how cues associated with money or winning can make slot machines more attractive and can even make bigger wins more memorable," said Spetch. "Such cues are prevalent in casinos and likely increase the allure of slot machine gambling."

The researchers also found that people preferred to play on machines with these cues no matter how risky the machine was, and regardless of when the sound or visual effects appeared. "Attraction to slot machines and memory for winning can be influenced by factors other than the amount of money won on a slot machine," explained Christopher Madan, co-author from University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom and former PhD student of Spetch. "People should be aware that their attraction and sense of winning may be biased."

According to the Canadian Gaming Association, 98 per cent of Canadians gamble for fun and entertainment. Alberta is home to 28 casinos and more than 14,000 slot machines. In 2019, revenue generated by the gaming industry in Alberta was $2.7 billion.

This research was conducted in collaboration with Elliot Ludvig from Warwick University in the United Kingdom and with Yang Liu, a postdoctoral fellow in the Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry Department of Psychiatry at the University of Alberta. Funding for this research is provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI).

The paper, "Effects of Winning Cues and Relative Payout on Choice between Simulated Slot Machines," was published in Addiction (doi: 10.1111/add.15010).
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University of Alberta

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