Frequent gamblers may think they’re on a winning streak, or the cards are in their favour, yet in reality these are impulses, according to a new study published in the Journal Of Gambling Studies.

These impulses grab them to the point where they are willing to bet considerable money on what is pure illusory non-randomness, according to the study. In other words, gamblers use a wrong sense of belief that they can see patterns even when there are none.

In the study, the international research team worked with hardcore gamblers and members of the local community.

They showed participants a picture of a casino and two slot machines and asked them to predict how many tries it would take to obtain a coin from the slot machine on the right or left.

One slot machine had a 67% chance of winning, a significantly higher probability than the other, which gave out only a 33% chance. Order of outcomes was random.

A rational person would bet on the machine with a higher chance of winning however a phenomenon exists in which individuals match their response proportions to the outcome probabilities.

In other words, 67 %of the time, they bet on the slot machine bearing the 67% odds of winning and 33% of the time they bet on the slot machine that bears 33% odds of winning.

This is called “probability matching” and it’s not a good way to be successful.

Prior studies show that gamblers experience illusory perception of patterns, or a false belief, in random sequences that inspires probability matching, giving the gambler the mistaken impression that instinct will lead them to make the best bet. This is impossible given the randomness of the game, say the researchers.

In the experiment, participants who were gamblers practiced more probability matching behaviour, which the researchers conclude makes them more vulnerable to illusory pattern perception.

The gamblers scored lower on a cognitive reflection task to measure impulsivity. In this task, the researchers asked questions such as “A bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost?”

The question seems simple but takes a bit of reflection because the response of 10¢ could easily come to mind, but gamblers would give an answer of 5¢. This is because gamblers want to answer questions quickly without stopping to think about it believing that their instinct and being impulsive is important to get to a right answer.

Gamblers tend to bet that they can answer the question swiftly and succinctly without stopping to think about it.
Ironically, the researchers say that humans are generally good at identifying actual patterns.

The study’s findings have broad implications for a large body of research suggesting that cognitive distortions mark the difference between social gamblers and the pathological kind. – AFP Relaxnews