Loss-chasing, alexithymia, and impulsivity in a gambling task: Alexithymia as a precursor to loss-chasing behavior when gambling


Objective: To examine the relationship between loss-chasing, the propensity to continue gambling to recover from losses, alexithymia, a personality trait associated poor emotional processing and impulsivity, the tendency to act quickly without reflection or consideration of the consequences.

Method: Two experiments are reported (E1: N = 60, Males, 11; Age, 21.6 years. E2: N = 49, Males, 22; Age, 21.1 years). In experiment 1, two groups (low alexithymia, high alexithymia) completed the Cambridge Gambling Task (CGT). Loss-chasing behavior was investigated. In experiment 2, both alexithymia (low, high) and impulsivity (low, high) were examined also using the CGT. A further change was the order of bet proportion from ascending to descending.

Results: Experiment 1 shows loss-chasing behavior in participants high in alexithymia but not those low in alexithymia (η2p=0.09ηp2=0.09). Experiment 2 shows loss-chasing behavior in participants both low and high in alexithymia but it was greater for participants high in alexithymia (η2pηp2 = 0.09). The effect of impulsivity was not statistically significant (η2pηp2 = 0.01). Loss-chasing behavior was correlated with the emotional facets of alexithymia but not the cognitive facet.

Conclusions: Alexithymia is a precursor to loss-chasing when gambling and loss-chasing reflects the cognitive and emotional aspects of gambling. Specifically, the tendency to loss-chase depends on the need to recoup previous losses and failure to process the emotional consequences of those losses.

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