Flashing lights and catchy sounds in casinos stimulate risky decision-making

The study from the University of British Columbia suggest that lights and jingles may also promote problematic gambling behaviour.

A study from the University of British Columbia has suggested that the flashing lights and exciting jingles in casinos could encourage risky decision-making among gamblers. In addition, they potentially promote problematic gambling behaviour.

The findings of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research-funded study were published in JNeurosci, a journal from the Society for Neuroscience.

The study demonstrated that while sensory cues in casinos seem harmless, they may have a direct influence on players’ decisions and encourage them to make riskier choices. The effect of this raises concerns that these features may promote problem gambling. 

The study’s lead author, Mariya Cherkasova, who is also a UBC postdoctoral research fellow, confirmed their findings saying that, regardless of the odds, players took more risks when playing the more casino-like games. 

She added that adding casino-like audio-visual features to the laboratory gambling game reduced the extent to which the odds of winning directly impacted players’ choices.

More insight into the derivative study

This study was prompted by earlier UBC research that discovered rats were more willing to take risks when their food rewards were accompanied by flashing lights and jingles.

To model this research and determine whether humans would react the same way, researchers conducted a study on more than 100 adults in which they played laboratory gambling games that featured sensory feedback similar to the “bells and whistles” sounds used to signal winning in real slot machines. They found slot machine sounds and money imagery could directly influence an individual’s decisions.

Catharine Winstanley is the study’s senior author, a professor at the UBC Department of Psychology, and an investigator at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. 

She said the researchers used eye-tracker technology to discover that when wins were accompanied by casino jingles and money imagery, people were paying less attention to information about the odds. In addition to this, the study showed that when winning outcomes accompanied sensory cues, people were more aroused.

What happens when these sensory cues are eliminated

According to the study, participants were less adventurous in their decision-making when sensory cues were not available. 

These findings provide some context for why it can be hard for those with a tendency toward gambling addiction to resist the lure of the casino. 

“Together, these results provide new insight into the role played by audio-visual cues in promoting risky choice, and could in part explain why some people persist in gambling despite unfavourable odds of winning,” Chrekasova said.

The results are a key factor that is enabling scientists break down the origination and evolution of gambling addiction.

Online casinos to the rescue?

Online casinos can potentially offer gamblers the leeway to plunge into risky behaviours that are encouraged by offline casinos. A 2018 study suggested that people in the United Kingdom, for instance, can conclude that online gambling carries such benefits.

At the height of COVID pandemic, online casinos ensured gamers and gamblers had access to keep on playing.

In the last decade, online casino sites have quickly grown in popularity from online casino slots to Roulette casino online, and there are many individuals who enjoy placing bets with offshore operators. 

There are many of such online casino sites. However, Basketball Insiders provides a list of the top-ranked online casinos.

Research also shows that the speed-of-play in online casinos can potentially reduce how much is spent on gambling.