Gambling as a search for justice: Examining the role of personal relative deprivation in gambling urges and gambling behavior

Abstract

The present article explores the hypothesis that gambling might serve a justice-seeking function for some people, as gambling might offer a means to pursuing desirable outcomes that people feel they deserve but might be unable or unwilling to attain through conventional means. In Study 1, across two separate samples, self-reports of personal relative deprivation predict problem gambling and gambling urges over and above relevant control variables. In Study 2, the authors manipulate personal relative deprivation by informing participants that they have either less or more discretionary income than "similar others." They then give participants $20 and the opportunity to gamble. The results show that a greater percentage of participants who are "relatively deprived" (vs. "not relatively deprived") opt to gamble. Two manipulation validation studies demonstrate that the "relatively deprived" participants are preoccupied with justice during a modified Stroop task and feel resentful. Implications for understanding why people gamble are discussed.

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