Predictors of return rate discrimination in slot machine play

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to investigate the extent to which accurate estimates of payback percentages and volatility combined with prior learning, enabled players to successfully discriminate between multi-line/multi-credit slot machines that provided differing rates of reinforcement. The aim was to determine if the capacity to discriminate structural characteristics of gaming machines influenced player choices in selecting ‘favourite’ slot machines. Slot machine gambling history, gambling beliefs and knowledge, impulsivity, illusions of control, and problem solving style were assessed in a sample of 48 first year undergraduate psychology students. Participants were subsequently exposed to a choice paradigm where they could freely select to play either of two concurrently presented PC-simulated slot machines programmed to randomly differ in expected player return rates (payback percentage) and win frequency (volatility). Results suggest that prior learning and cognitions (particularly gambler’s fallacy) but not payback, were major contributors to the ability of a player to discriminate volatility between slot machines. Participants displayed a general tendency to discriminate payback, but counter-intuitively placed more bets on the slot machine with lower payback percentage rates.

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