The Psychology of Slot Machine Addiction

Slot machines account​ for more than 75 per cent of total gambling revenues in casinos and are notorious for suckering players into addiction.

One technique that slots use to keep players gambler is that of the near-miss. Near-misses program the machine so that it simulates winner every so often, only just a little ways off this time. Near-misses heighten player enjoyment and fund-raising, and keep players at the slot machine for hundreds of detached spins.

Intermittent reinforcement

Modern-day slot machines remain the central form of gambling in contemporary casinos, generating up to 75 per cent of casino revenue. Despite their deceptive appearance, they can be particularly addictive. They exploit intermittent positive reinforcement – rewards arriving on a regular, unpredictable schedule; similar to how abusers manipulate their victims.

Hitting the ‘spin’ button on an actual slot machine or on its internet equivalent triggers a flurry of visual shapes and colours that triggers the neurochemical rush of dopamine just as surely as when the abuser alternates between assaulting and statements of love.

This intermittent reinforcement makes them more motivated to continue, which can in turn make cravings grow. One study recruited students (ages 18-40) to complete a series of tasks for points, while being placed in one of two contexts: gambling or control. In advance of each task, the participants used visual analog scales to rate craving (eg, ‘How much are you craving to gambled at this moment?’) and perceived self-control (eg, ‘How much control do you have over your gambling?’) levels. With environment as the sole manipulation, craving within the gambling context was significantly greater than in the neutral environment. Similarly, perceived self-control ratings were significantly greater in the gambling context than in the neutral condition.

Chasing losses

Chasing losses is a mental illness that leaves its victims with many negative consequences in financial and emotional terms, being a cause of marital fallout, and a factor in social alienation; all this proves doubly difficult for gamblers in their addiction – when they are chasing losses, they neglect their work, become involved in gaming, and turn their backs on other matters that require their care and attention.

Numerous studies have corroborated the connection between losses chasing and sensation seeking; for example, Breen and Zuckerman showed in an experiment that the participants who chase their losses were more impulsive than the non-chasers, and they bet faster with more consistency over time.

This is consistent with the prediction that an inability to regulate negative emotions and a pursuit of instant gratification contribute to harmful gambling. Meanwhile, Dixon et al have reported that clinical depression predicted problem gambling and dark flow among individuals playing slots.

Multisensory stimuli

Multisensory environments promote stimulation of several senses at once, providing a more beneficial stimulation than stimulating a single sense. This approach also helps to reduce stress. It boosts the amount we learn and remember and helps to make learning fun – all good strategies for babies who learn about their world through multisensory experiences and become curious about their surroundings, while also learning how to control their movements by interacting with a stimulating physical environment.

Aside from near-miss bias, expectations are that losses determine a greater frequency of more losses to come. The extent to which such cognitive distortions impact gambling behaviour is currently under investigation. These distortions might also be linked to depression and/or anxiety, which are associated with increased risk of addiction, but also a sense of control because probabilistic events, by definition, are immune to control – certainly those governed by random number generators.


Addiction can be a serious problem for some people who use slot machines. There are support groups available which would help those people and give them advice to cope with the addiction of slot machines. Furthermore, these support groups can teach those people to recognize the actors which would let them start gambling such as advertisements about lotteries, pictures and movies, and other tings like that, so they should run away from such triggers which would let people gamble.

For every gambler who views gambling as simply fun, some people develop severe problems associated with gambling. These issues include debt, interpersonal conflict and professional stigma, all of which make controlling one’s impulses harder. Not only that, but depression and anxiety can become problems that feed into and exacerbate the challenges of the gambling.

The multisensory stimulation (bright colours, flashing lights and sounds) of slot machines make them very sensory and highly addictive. The reward system in the brain reacts to this multisensory environment generating what Farias calls a ‘hedonic response’ or a state of euphoria, where the player ‘becomes completely lost’ in his game and loses track of time. Hedonic responses are sometimes accompanied by an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, and are marked by sexual arousal and reward.

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