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

Summary: People prefer to play virtual slot machines that provide casino-related cues, such as the sound of coins dropping or symbols of dollar signs. Cues associated with money and winning makes virtual slot machines more attractive and bigger wins more memorable.

Source: University of Alberta

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 percent 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 shows slot machines

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. The image is in the public domain.

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: Funding for this research is provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI).

About this neuroscience research article

Source:
University of Alberta
Media Contacts:
Katie Willis – University of Alberta
Image Source:
The image is in the public domain.

Original Research: Closed access
“Effects of Winning Cues and Relative Payout on Choice between Simulated Slot Machines”. Marcia L. Spetch, Christopher R. Madan, Yang Liu, Elliot A. Ludvig.
Addiction doi:10.1111/add.15010.

Abstract

Effects of Winning Cues and Relative Payout on Choice between Simulated Slot Machines

Background and aims
Cues associated with winning may encourage gambling. We assessed the effects on risky choice of slot machine of: 1) neutral sounds paired with winning, 2) casino‐related cues (such as the sound of coins dropping and pictures of dollar signs), and 3) relative payouts.

Design
Experimental studies in which participants repeatedly chose between safer and riskier simulated slot machines. Safer slot machines paid the same amount regardless of which symbols lined up. Risky machines paid different amounts depending on which symbols lined up. Effects of initially‐neutral sounds paired with the best payout were assessed between‐groups (Experiment 1a) and within‐participants (Experiment 1b). In Experiment 2, pairing of casino‐related audiovisual cues with payout was assessed within participants, and cue timing was assessed between groups.

Setting
A university research laboratory in Edmonton, Canada.

Participants
Undergraduate students (N=692, 69% female, mean age 19 years).

Measurements
Preference for riskier over safer machines, preference between machines that differed in cues, payout recall, and frequency estimates for payouts. Risky choice was calculated as the proportion of choices of the risky machine when presented with a fixed machine of the same expected value.

Findings
In Experiment 1a, risky choice was slightly increased by pairing a sound with the best payout compared with pairing the sound with a lower payout (p=.04, d=0.28) but not compared with no sound (p=.36, d=0.13, BF10=0.22). In Experiment 1b, people did not prefer a machine with a best‐payout sound over one with a lower‐payout sound (p=.67, d=0.03, BF10=0.11). Relative payout affected choice: risky choices were higher for high‐payout than low‐payout decisions (p<.001, d=0.53). In Experiment 2, people preferred machines with casino‐related cues paired with winning (p <.001, r2=.11), and cue timing (at choice or concurrently with the win) had no effect (p=.95, r2=.0, BF10=.05). Casino‐related cues also enhanced payout memory (p=.013 and.006). Cue effects were not specific to risk: people also preferred fixed‐payout machines with casino‐related cues (p<.001, r2=.16).

Conclusions
In a gambling simulation, student participants chose more risky slot machines when payouts were relatively higher and when casino‐related cues were associated with payouts. Pairing a neutral sound with the best payout did not consistently affect slot machine choice, and the effect of casino cues did not depend on their timing. Casino‐related cues enhanced payout memory.

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