Electrodermal activity reliably captures physiological differences between wins and losses during gambling on electronic machines


Differential patterns of physiological arousal to win and loss events during gambling is central to psychological conceptualizations of gambling behaviors but is poorly researched. We recorded heart rate (HR) and skin conductance responses (SCRs) to wins and losses while 23 healthy participants played for small incentives on a simulated electronic gambling task. Wins produced large SCRs whereas losses did not, and large wins produced larger SCRs than small wins. Electrodermal measures also correlated with reward responsiveness on a personality measure and with ratings of excitement during gambling. HR evidenced a slight deceleration before event outcomes, and the rebound HR was larger after wins than after losses. The study demonstrates that physiological changes to gambling events can be reliably captured, and that these changes are sensitive to differential outcomes. These findings establish a foundation for future research in field settings.

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