Participants' Sensitivity to Percentage Payback and Credit Value When Playing a Slot-Machine Simulation

Jeffrey N. Weatherly, Andrew E. Brandt


Legalized gambling has become both a major industry and concern in the United States, but little research from the behavior-analytic perspective has been done on the topic. The present study consisted of two experiments that had participants play a computer-simulated slot machine. The variables manipulated were the percentage payback rate (i.e., overall rate of reinforcement) and the amount of money the credits being wagered were worth (i.e., reinforcer magnitude). Experiment 1 investigated these variables using a between-groups design. Experiment 2 investigated them using a within-subjects design. Results from both experiments demonstrated that participants' gambling behavior did not vary as a function of payback percentage. Their behavior was, however, sensitive to credit value; overall, participants bet less when the credits were worth more. These findings have potential implications for why some people display "problem gambling." They will also hopefully promote research on a topic that has been largely ignored by the field of behavior analysis.

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Published by the University of Illinois at Chicago Library

And Behaviorists for Social Responsibility