Humanizing machines: Anthropomorphization of slot machines increases gambling

Abstract

Do people gamble more on slot machines if they think that they are playing against humanlike minds rather than mathematical algorithms? Research has shown that people have a strong cognitive tendency to imbue humanlike mental states to nonhuman entities (i.e., anthropomorphism). The present research tested whether anthropomorphizing slot machines would increase gambling. Four studies manipulated slot machine anthropomorphization and found that exposing people to an anthropomorphized description of a slot machine increased gambling behavior and reduced gambling outcomes. Such findings emerged using tasks that focused on gambling behavior (Studies 1 to 3) as well as in experimental paradigms that included gambling outcomes (Studies 2 to 4). We found that gambling outcomes decrease because participants primed with the anthropomorphic slot machine gambled more (Study 4). Furthermore, we found that high-arousal positive emotions (e.g., feeling excited) played a role in the effect of anthropomorphism on gambling behavior (Studies 3 and 4). Our research indicates that the psychological process of gambling-machine anthropomorphism can be advantageous for the gaming industry; however, this may come at great expense for gamblers' (and their families') economic resources and psychological well-being.

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