The BBC's Panorama last night looked at why people gamble on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals - despite a 97% chance of losing.
Traditionally, behavioural psyhology has said that people keep going back to gambling machines through what is known as variable reinforcement - the inexplicable chance that you win some of the time. Some people think that they can beat the odds by working to a system, too. However, most who try this end up poor.
The new information in last night's program came from experiments presented by Professor David Nutt, Director of Neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial college. He said that they had put a gambler, with access to a gambling machine, through an MRI scanner - and had watched as various parts of his brain fired up during gambling. They noticed that the periods of anticipation - whilst waiting for a wheel to turn - got just as much pleasurable brain stimulation as when they actually won. This was presented by a relative as evidence that gamblers don't really care if the win or lose - as long as they get this stimulation. They might feel pretty wretched at having lost,but at least they had had their fun.
There was much wringing of hands and calls for the government to limit the availability of FOBT outlets, but no real solutions presented.
What if there was a way of changing people's motivations - so that they would avoid gambling altogether? A skilled hypnotist can alter people's timeline - so that they would get the feelings of wretchedness - associated with losing - everytime they considered gambling.
Matthew Hall, Master in Clinical Hypnosis
Member since: 5th May 2012
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