Gamblers Seen As Superstitious And Stimulus Cravers
A British study finds gamblers much more superstitious than non-gamblers.
Over 80% of UK bingo players surveyed were generally superstitious – some attributing lucky seats, lucky friends and lucky nights of the week to gambling success.
Just one-third of the larger UK population are thought to be superstitious – the most commonly reported behaviours being: avoiding walking under ladders, touching wood for good luck and throwing salt over shoulders.
Could training in statistics and physics reduce the belief in luck? My guess is those with lower aptitudes for math and physics are more likely to believe in luck. So better training probably would not help much. Future geneticallly engineered neural stem cell therapies for boosting IQ will probably reduce the desire to gamble though.
Another recent study found that alcoholics and gamblers are motivated by different kinds of emotions.
Tavares said that positive emotions and negative emotions are two separate, distinct and independent dimensions, possibly regulated by different brain systems. “We found that alcohol craving was based on the temperament factor responsible for negative emotions,” he said. “This suggests that those individuals who are especially vulnerable to negative emotions are the ones who will miss alcohol the most when trying to abstain. Conversely, gambling craving correlated to the temperament factor responsible for positive emotions.
“This suggests that those individuals who naturally lack positive emotions and require intense stimuli to experience elation are the ones who will miss gambling the most when trying to abstain.”
As I reported in another recent post fetal alcohol exposure in early pregnancy or during the full length of pregnancy in rhesus macaque monkeys resulted in macaques that had blunted responses to stimuli. Humans exposed to alcohol during fetal development and born with less ability to respond to stimuli might take up gambling as a source of more intense experiences. So alcohol abuse in one generation might lead to compulsive gambling in a successive generation.
If the need to experience an intense stimulus could be met by some other source of a stimulus would gambling compulsion be easier to break? How about putting gambling treatment centers next to amusement parks and taking the gamblers on roller coaster rides? The problem is that it is a lot easier and faster to log on to a gambling web site or do off-site betting on track races than to go to an amusement park. Most people do not live near roller coasters. Could video games provide the craved level of intense stimulation?
Gene therapies and neural stem cell therapies will eventually provide ways to supply neurons that reduce the need for the stimulus high that comes from gambling.
Technological advances are making gambling problems easier to develop (while producing lots of email and blog spam in the process).
Today more young people gamble once a week than smoke, drink or take drugs combined.
“Poker playing seems to have grown to the point where now you’ve got about 20% of young males, who are either in high school or in college playing poker with their friends on a weekly basis,” says Dan Romer, who runs the Annenberg Adolescent Risk Communication Centre at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Of those at least a quarter of them would be exhibiting some form of problem gambling symptoms.”
Human beings did not evolve to handle the types of artificial environments that technologies are producing. The range of technologies which humans are not adapted to handle keeps growing. Home methamphetamine labs and internet gambling web sites are just two manifestations of a larger problem: Humans find themselves in technological environments very unlike the environments for which they evolved.
Some humans are lucky enough to have combinations of alleles, embryonic environments, and childhood environments that make them still able to function well in the face of so many potentially harmful activities. Some can gamble occasionally without developing a compulsion to do so. Some can have a drink of alcohol without developing a need for it. Some feel great enough to see no temptation from cocaine or methamphetamine.
But others less lucky are caught up in a growing number of temptations which they are genetically and cognitively ill-suited to handle. The weakening of belief in religious codes that used to justify many restrictions on vices combined with liberal and libertarian views of human ability to exercise free will leave those with neurological vulnerabilities insufficiently defended against a proliferation of ways to develop compulsive, addictive, and destructive vices. Only the acceptance of a more biological view of human nature can restore some of the wisdom about vices lost in the decline of religious beliefs.
By Randall Parker at 2005 September 18 12:52 PM Brain Addiction | TrackBack
Hugh Angell said at September 18, 2005 01:46 PM:
There maybe a genetic component in heavy gambling but I don’t think it involves
intelligence or the lack of it. One of the few criminal activities that Asians
in the US commit disproportionately is illegal gambling. Their culture is not
associated with heavy drinking nor are they considered below average in intelligence.
I would also think that those who are serious gamblers would have or think they have
superior intelligence. Card counters in blackjack, poker players computing the odds
using the known cards, etc. Then there are those that gamble on sporting contests.
This too can be quite sophisticated where the bettor amasses huge amounts of data
on the teams relative strengths under different conditions, demographic data such
as knowing that a team from a big city will bend house odds based on nothing more
than they have more hometown supporters. Some folks even make a good living at it
so, for them, it isn’t simply Lady Luck it is their superior insight into the odds
that give them an edge.
I won’t comment on that other crap shoot, the stock market, except to say that there
are gamblers successful and otherwise here too.
Patrick said at September 19, 2005 01:28 AM:
Yet more evidence that being superstitious gives you bad luck.
T. J. Madison said at September 22, 2005 01:52 AM:
>>Could training in statistics and physics reduce the belief in luck? My guess is those with lower aptitudes for math and physics are more likely to believe in luck.
It is my understanding that one year the APS annual meeting was held in Las Vegas, and the prostitution and gambling industries reported a dramatic dip in revenues. I don’t think we’ve been invited back since 🙂
A reader in SoCal said at September 23, 2005 10:58 PM:
Too bad the shrinks didn’t do Vegas properly, I’m sure a lot of good papers could have been published out of that 😉
But on to those who need those dopamine hits to get their rewards…
First, some say there are two kinds of gamblers: those who need the reward (which we are discussing here), and those who gamble as a form of escapism. Like, the guy who lost his job and may drink at a bar or just as easily absentmindedly hit the slots. Different motivations, but those who have a gambling addiction I would guess have a deficient dopamine reward system. This happened recently when the parkinson’s med induced compulsive gambling — the med was to the Dopamine receptor 2, I think. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/08/030812073612.htm
With the dopamine-deficient individuals, I think they have another characteristic: a frontal-lobe white matter deficit. Probably the most famous white matter deficit person is the noted Mr. Gage who had a railroad spike through his frontal lobe, and allegedly went from being a nice guy to a boorish sociopath. http://www.deakin.edu.au/hbs/GAGEPAGE/
There seems to be a connection between white matter in the frontal lobes (I think) of the brain and the lack of empathy — or really, the lack of compassion/morals. (As I understand it, white matter is neural tissue which makes the connections, sort of like the wiring in the brain. communicating from one functional area to another. Like, the amygdala (emotion) to the frontal regions (cognition/reasoning)).
There have been recent fmri studies relating to deception where those having brain lesions or otherwise lacking “normal” white matter have reduced physical stimuli lying. Lying doesn’t phase them. Hence, the recent report that psychopaths are the most successful investors, because they aren’t emotionally involved.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=15717989&query_hl=10 (review article on neuroimaging personality disordered individuals).
Also, it has been reported that people who don’t dream have reduced white matter. (Sorry lost the link on that one, it was a byproduct of some other study).
What can reduce white matter? Disease, stroke, that kind of thing, but also alcohol abuse.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?cmd=Retrieve&db=pubmed&dopt=Abstract&list_uids=16172612&query_hl=1
Plus, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders can reduce white matter in utero i think, although not sure if this can be compensated later.
So, this may be a case of nature/nurture/environment where nature made some people prone to needing extra dopamine, and they used alcohol, which damaged the white matter in their offspring (who perhaps had a diluted form of the dopamine deficiency genetic makeup) and that offspring then was raised with insufficient empathic/nurturing, and so began to drink and further broke down their white matter.