Even the most naive gambler knows that casino games favor the house, some a little (blackjack) and some a lot (slot machines). So why do we keep feeding the kitty? New research at the University of Cambridge has found that near misses trigger the same kind of brain reward as dope or chocolate.
Researchers there used brain scans to follow the processes of subjects while they gambles on a slot machine. When these people won, as you might expect the win triggered activity in the part of the brain that rewards the person, the same area that is tickled by chocolate or narcotics.
When the subjects fell just short of winning, however, instead of experiencing a negative emotion, the reward part of the brain was excited. When questioned about their reaction to these near misses, the subjects said that they were disappointed, yet had a higher desire to continue playing. This jibs with other studies that show that punters play longer on games that have near-misses than those without.
The lead researcher in the study, Dr. Luke Clark, concluded "Gamblers often interpret near-misses as special events, which encourage them to gamble. Our findings show that the brain responds to near-misses as if a win had been delivered, even though the result is technically a loss."
This confirms what con men have always known -- to run a good scam, the mark has to have hope, has to believe that he is on the verge of winning. Las Vegas was built on the notion.
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Why we continue to gamble against the house odds