An analysis of switching and non-switching slot machine player behaviour


Learning theory predicts that, given the repeated choice to bet between two concurrently available slot machines, gamblers will learn to bet more money on the machine with higher expected return (payback percentage) or higher win probability per spin (volatility). The purpose of this study was to investigate whether this occurs when the two machines vary orthogonally on payback percentage and volatility. The sample comprised 52 first year psychology students (mean age = 20.3 years, 20 females, 32 males) who had played a gaming machine at least once in the previous 12 months. Participants were administered a battery of questionnaires designed to assess level of knowledge on the characteristics and operation of poker machines, frequency of poker machine play in the past 12 months, personality traits of impulsivity and capacity for cognitive reflection, and gambling beliefs. For the experimental task, participants were instructed to play on two PC-simulated electronic gaming machines (EGMs or slot machines) that differed on payback percentage and volatility, with the option of freely switching between EGMs after a practice phase. Results indicated that participants were able to easily discriminate between machines and manifested a preference to play machines offering higher payback or volatility. These findings diverged from previous findings of no preference for play on higher payback/volatility machines, potentially due to of the current study’s absence of the option to make multi-line and multi-credit bets. It was concluded that return rate parameters like payback percentage and volatility strongly influenced slot machine preference in the absence of betting options like multi-line bets, though more research is needed to determine the effects of such betting options on player distribution of money between multiple EGMs.

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