“Near Misses” Encourage Problem Gambling

Studies have shown that people who play games of chance, such as slot machines or the lottery, often mistakenly believe some level of skill is required to win. This illusion of control often pushes players to continue. The findings below indicate that near-miss outcomes may elicit a dopamine response in the most severe gamblers, despite the fact no reward is delivered.

Problem gamblers react more intensely to “near misses” than casual gamblers, possibly spurring them on to play more, according to new research published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Researchers found that the brain region that responds to rewards by delivering a dose of the chemical dopamine was especially active in these individuals.

Studies have shown that pathological gambling is an addiction, similar in many ways to drug addiction. The new study suggests that the degree to which a person's brain responds to near misses may indicate the severity of addiction. …

These findings are exciting because they suggest that near-miss outcomes may elicit a dopamine response in the more severe gamblers, despite the fact that no actual reward is delivered,” said Luke Clark, PhD, of the University of Cambridge. “If these bursts of dopamine are driving addictive behavior, this may help to explain why problem gamblers find it so difficult to quit.”

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