New research from UBC’s Centre for Gambling Research shows that the gamblers who enter a trance while playing slots are likelier to have gambling problems.
The research paper was published online earlier this month, and it is the first one to rigorously test the slots zone hypothesis. This hypothesis means that slots are preferred by problem gamblers since they offer a continuous and fast style of play which brings about an immersed state in it players can escape unpleasant feelings such as boredom, stress or any other low mood. You can find the paper in the Psychology Journal of Addictive Behaviors.
For this study, researchers recruited two groups of subjects: a group of UBC undergraduates, many of whom played a slot for the first time, and the second group of experienced slot gamblers.
The experiment lasted for 30 minutes, in which the participants played a real slot in the UBC casino lab. The game had panels mounted on each side that displayed moving shapes like white circles. The subjects were asked to press a button whenever they notice a white circle turn to a red square. After the experiment, they were told to report if they felt like they were in a trance while playing. Moreover, the researchers measured each person’s heart rate changes during the experiment.
In both of the groups, researchers found that the subjects who were at higher risk of problem gambling showed greater levels of immersion during play. Among the experienced gamblers, those at increased risk of problem gambling missed the changing shapes on the side panels more often.