Unclaimed prize information biases perceptions of winning in scratch card gambling

Abstract

Unclaimed prize information (i.e., the number of prizes still available to be won) is information commonly provided to scratch card gamblers. However, unless the number of tickets remaining to be purchased is also provided, this information is uninformative. Despite its lack of utility in assisting gamblers in choosing the most favourable type of scratch card to play, we hypothesized that unclaimed prize information would bias participants’ judgments within a scratch card gambling context. In Experiment 1 (N = 201), we showed that participants are influenced by this information such that they felt more likely to win, were more excited to play, and preferred to hypothetically purchase more of the scratch card with the greatest number of unclaimed prizes. In Experiment 2 (N = 201), we attempted to ameliorate this bias by providing participants with the number of tickets remaining to be purchased and equating the payback percentages of all three games. The bias, although attenuated, still persisted in these conditions. Finally, in Experiment 3 (N = 200), we manipulated the hypothetical scratch cards such that games with the highest number of unclaimed prizes were the least favourable, and vice versa. As in Experiment 2, participants still favoured cards with greater numbers of unclaimed prizes. Possible mechanisms underlying this bias are discussed. In conclusion, across three experiments, we demonstrate that salient unclaimed prize information is capable of exerting a strong effect over judgments related to scratch card games.

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