UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Pay as you flow : measuring the slot machine zone with attentional dual tasks Murch, William Spencer


Why do people seek out gambling activities? In addition to acknowledging the excitement or ‘rush’ that gambling provides, a contemporary hypothesis highlights escape from stress or other aversive mood states as a key motive for slot machine play and risk factor for gambling disorders. Anecdotal accounts tell of machine gamblers becoming fully immersed in gambling: losing track of time, failing to notice peripheral events, and thinking exclusively about the game. It has been argued that electronic gaming machines (EGMs, including slot machines) are inherently more harmful than other gambling forms, perhaps owing to their ability to immerse players in prolonged gambling sessions. In four studies, I investigated the subjective, behavioural and psychophysiological underpinnings of immersion during EGM play. Studies 1, 2 and 3 used a peripheral target detection task during EGM gambling in order to test the hypothesis that peripheral inattention predicts immersion and risk of problem gambling. Study 2 also examined a mind wandering probe task in relation to immersion during EGM gambling. Study 3 examined the effects of EGM “practice” on immersion and peripheral attention. Study 4 examined solitary versus joint gambling as a potential moderator of EGM immersion. In addition, studies 1, 2 and 4 recorded respiratory sinus arrhythmia, a physiological marker of the parasympathetic nervous system, as a potential predictor of immersion and gambling risk. My results showed that risk of problem gambling significantly predicted both peripheral inattention and subjective immersion during EGM use by regular gamblers, but that inattention was not directly related to immersion. A reliable parasympathetic withdrawal effect was found during EGM play on respiratory sinus arrhythmia, but this was not related to markers of immersion. Implications are considered for the development of problem gambling and responsible gambling practices.

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