Your fifth approach to study is the Individual Differences Approach. You will need to bring your notes and answers to class to be assessed on your understanding of the study.
1994 was a year for addictive behaviour. Take the charts - only 15 No.1's throughout the entire year, with some clinging to the top spot for months. Wet Wet Wet put Love Is All Around at the top for fifteen (15!!!!) weeks. It was followed by Whigfield's skool disco knuckle-dragger Saturday Night and people couldn't get enough of that either. Both songs were still bothering the charts at the end of the year. Meanwhile, Boyzone had the first of their fifteen (15!!!!) Top 5 singles with Love Me For A Reason and the record was broken for the longest charting song: Bon Jovi's Dry Country at 9 minutes 52 seconds.
Professor Mark Griffiths at Nottingham Trent University is Europe's only professor of Gambling Studies. A lot of his research has been into the cognitive side of gambling - what gamblers are thinking, how they weigh up odds and how they explain their wins and losses to themselves. However, this study is used as part of Individual Differences because it looks at unusual or abnormal behaviour and thinking, since ordinary people enjoy the odd "flutter" but some people seem to be addicted to gambling the way others are addicted to Cigarettes and Alcohol (coincidentally, also a hit for Oasis in 1994!).
This is a natural- or quasi- experiment, because it is comparing hardened gamblers with ordinary non-gamblers. See Maguire or Sperry for similar natural experiments. It uses self-report measures to get at the participants' thought processes, similar to the research by Reicher & Haslam.
|Click here for making notes on this study.||to see the assessment questions you need to answer on this study.||to view a PowerPoint slide show guiding you through the study.|
|Read an interview with Mark Griffiths on PsychBLOG||Gambling and the law - read a BBC news article on the psychology of new gambling laws||Interested in addiction? This Encyclopaedia Article outlines the psychology of addictive behaviours|
Psychologists used to focus on addictive substances (opium, alcohol) and developed explanations for addiction using the Biological Approach. Some of these looked at brain chemistry - in particular substances called neurotransmitters that create sensations of pleasure in the brain. Some drugs seem to increase the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Other biopsychologists have looked at genetics and identified genes that tie in with a tendency to abuse drugs.
More recently, psychologists have noticed that behaviours can be just as addictive as substances - we can get addicted to shopping, sex or World of Warcraft and you see many of the same responses in gambling addicts that you see in problem drinkers. Gamblers report getting a "buzz" from the game and experiencing "withdrawal" when they go without it; like drug addicts they can "relapse" even if they've gone without gambling for a long time.
Some psychologists like to explain this with Behaviourism. Maybe we LEARN to drink, smoke, gamble or shop compulsively because there are powerful rewards when we do this behaviour - it's an escape from the problems of reality. Mark Griffiths prefers to take a Cognitive Approach, looking for something distinctive in the way problem gamblers think about what they're doing.
Cognitive psychologists use the word HEURISTIC to mean the "rules of thumb" we use to solve problems in our heads. A common heuristic used by gamblers is "Fixation on Absolute Frequency" - this is when gamblers count the number of times they win, but not relative to the number of times they lose (as in "I won £50 at the weekend" without mentioning "but I started out with £500").
The aim was to compare the behaviour and thought processes of Regular Gamblers (RGs) and Non-Regular Gamblers (NRGs) using fruit machines. There were three hypotheses:
Griffiths recruited 60 participants. Half were Regular Gamblers, using fruit machines at least once a week; half were Non-Regular Gamblers who had played fruit machines at least once before, but didn't play them more than once a month. This was a self-selecting sample (posters put up around the campus) but some RGs were recruited through a gambler known to Griffiths (snowball sample). The mean age was 23 and the NRGs were split 50-50 between male and female, but all except one of the RGs were male.
Each participant was given £3 and asked to gamble in a fruit machine in a local arcade (field setting). They were asked to make 60 gambles; after that they could either quit and keep the money that was left or keep gambling.
Half of the participants were tested through the THINKING ALOUD METHOD. They were asked to talk out loud (verbalise) what they were thinking as they gambled, without censoring any thoughts, justifying what they were thinking or pausing to structure their ideas. These verbalisations were tape recorded.
The main Independent Variable was whether or not the participant was a Regular Gambler. This was a naturally occurring variable.
Another I.V. was whether or not the participant was asked to think aloud. This was because Griffiths wanted to see if being asked to think aloud changed the way people played - maybe by making them self-conscious or slowing them down.
There were lots of Dependent Variables in this experiment.
First of all, although it wasn't one of the DVs being studied, it was interesting that of the 14 RGs who broke even after their 60 gambles, 10 of them carried on gambling until they had lost everything. Only 2 of the NRGs did this.
The RGs gambled faster than the NRGs - 8 gambles per minutes, compared to 6.
The RGs who had to think aloud had a much lower win-rate compared to the NRGs.
In general, there were no differences between RGs and NRGs in terms of overall success. The RGs gambled more times with the same amount of money, but this was because they used "Hold" and "Nudge" features to make their money last longer.
The Content Analysis produced a huge amount of data, but I'm only going to pick out a couple of patterns.
Most of the NRGs thought that fruit machines were "mostly chance", whereas most RGs said "equal chance and skill".
Similarly, most NRGs saw themselves as "below average" when it came to fruit machine skills, but the RGs said "above average" or "totally skilled" (!)
First of all, RGs don't seem to be more successful than NRGs when it comes do winning money. This supports hypothesis #1. The RGs do get more mileage out of their money (they get more plays). Presumably they find playing to be rewarding in itself and choose machines that maximise their playing time.
RGs rated themselves as more skilled than NRGs and exaggerated the amount of skill needed to play fruit machines - supporting hypothyesis #2. This probably gives them an "illusion of control" over something which is in fact largely random.
The RGs did make more irrational verbalisations than the NRGs, supporting hypothesis #3. For example, they personified the machines, didn't admit to confusion and spoke as if lucky wins were down to their own skill. This supports the idea that gamblers use heuristics and are biased in their cognitions.
Griffiths suggests that his results might be useful for helping problem gamblers. Cognitive therapy might help gamblers realise their irrational thoughts. This was tried with four of the RGs in the study, who were surprised to find what they had been saying and thinking.
The THINKING ALOUD METHOD seems to be an effective way of studying cognitions of gamblers. The study could be improved if rigged fruit machines were used, which might expose the specific heuristics gamblers use when they play.