A casino's flashing lights, along with the ringing sounds of its slot machines, can increase risky decision-making among gamblers when combined with the reward of winning, according to a study published Monday in JNeurosci.
Researchers arrived at this conclusion after conducting a laboratory study of more than 100 people, which was prompted by concerns over whether or not the audiovisual feedback from slot machines could directly influence a player's decision-making and lead to problematic gambling.
According to addiction rehabilitation center The Oaks at La Paloma, approximately 2.6 percent of the U.S. population, or nearly 10 million people, have some type of gambling issue.
Researchers wanted to get to the root of this addiction and turned to a previous study on animals that looked at how the sensory cues, when paired with a reward, enhanced risky decision-making.
Catharine Winstanley, Mariya Cherkasova, and a team of experts looked at how this could be interpreted among humans participating in laboratory tests that included specific sensory feedback designed to include the "bells and whistles" triggered in slot machines when a player has struck it lucky.
They found that participants tended to make higher-risk decisions when larger "wins" were paired with progressively complex money imagery and casino jingles.
Furthermore, these audiovisual cues reduced participants' sensitivity to information regarding the odds of them actually winning.
Researchers concluded that the "risky decision-making is associated with greater addiction risk," according to a report.
The results could offer a greater insight into how audiovisual cues prompted riskier decision-making, and "could in part explain why some people persist in gambling in casinos (or on slot machines) despite unfavorable odds of winning," the team concluded.