Lights, sounds paired with winning encourages risk-taking

October 29, 2018

The intense audiovisual feedback from slot machines can directly influence a player's decisions, suggests a laboratory study of more than 100 healthy adults published in JNeurosci. The research raises new concerns that these machines and similar devices promote problematic gambling.

Prompted by animal research demonstrating sensory cues paired with a reward enhance risky decision-making, Catharine Winstanley, Mariya Cherkasova, and colleagues examined whether this would also be the case among human participants engaged in laboratory tasks featuring sensory feedback modeled after the "bells and whistles" used to signal winning outcomes in commercial gambling products.

The researchers found that pairing larger "wins" with progressively complex money imagery and casino jingles increased participants' preference for high-risk decisions. These cues also reduced participants' sensitivity to the information presented to them about the likelihood of winning. Finally, the researchers observed greater pupil dilation in subjects who were performing the cued version of the decision making task, indicating the players were more aroused when winning outcomes were paired with sensory cues.

Risky decision making is associated with greater addiction risk. Together, these results provide new insight into the role played by salient audiovisual cues in promoting risky choice, and could in part explain why some people persist in gambling in casinos (or on slot machines) despite unfavorable odds of winning.
-end-
Article: Win-concurrent sensory cues can promote riskier choice*
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.1171-18.2018
Corresponding authors: Catharine Winstanley, cwinstanley@psych.ubc.ca and Mariya Cherkasova, cherkaso@mail.ubc.ca (University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada)

*A preprint of this manuscript has been posted on bioRxiv

About JNeurosci

JNeurosci, the Society for Neuroscience's first journal, was launched in 1981 as a means to communicate the findings of the highest quality neuroscience research to the growing field. Today, the journal remains committed to publishing cutting-edge neuroscience that will have an immediate and lasting scientific impact, while responding to authors' changing publishing needs, representing breadth of the field and diversity in authorship.

About The Society for Neuroscience

The Society for Neuroscience is the world's largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to understanding the brain and nervous system. The nonprofit organization, founded in 1969, now has nearly 37,000 members in more than 90 countries and over 130 chapters worldwide.

Society for Neuroscience

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