Understanding the psychology of mobile gambling: A behavioural synthesis

Abstract

This manuscript reviews the extant literature on key issues related to mobile gambling and considers whether the potential risks of harm emerging from this platform are driven by pre-existing comorbidities or by psychological processes unique to mobile gambling. We propose an account based on associative learning that suggests this form of gambling is likely to show distinctive features compared with other gambling technologies. Smartphones are a rapidly growing platform on which individuals can gamble using specifically designed applications, adapted websites or text messaging. This review considers how mobile phone use interacts with psychological processes relevant to gambling, the games users are likely to play on smartphones, and the interactions afforded by smartphones. Our interpretation of the evidence is that the schedules of reinforcement found in gambling interact with the ways in which people tend to use smartphones that may expedite the acquisition of maladaptive learned behaviours such as problem gambling. This account is consistent with existing theories and frameworks of problem gambling and has relevance to other forms of mobile phone use.

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