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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Slot machine gambling and testosterone : evidence for a ‘winner-loser’ effect? Ferrari, Mario Anthony


Testosterone can be seen to modulate cognition and behaviour in many ways. One likely effect is to promote risky decision-making. According to a phenomenon termed the “winner-loser effect,” testosterone has also been observed to fluctuate in response to winning or losing competitions with others, with wins causing increases and losses causing decreases. Surprisingly, few studies have investigated the effects of gambling on testosterone levels, or whether individual differences in testosterone are related to risky gambling strategies. More specifically, the winner-loser effect may extend to slot machine gambling as a solitary gambling activity if players tend to ‘anthropomorphize’ slot machines, i.e. to treat the machine as a human agent with intentions and feelings. This study used a quasi-experimental design to measure testosterone fluctuations in response to winning and losing during a period of authentic slot machine gambling. Cortisol and anthropomorphism were investigated as potential moderators of a winner-loser effect on testosterone. Male participants (n = 120) provided saliva samples before and after a period of gambling on an authentic slot machine. Participants also provided measures of real-world gambling involvement, subjective experiences during slot machine play, and anthropomorphic tendencies. Contrary to predictions, winning and losing were not significantly associated with divergent effects on testosterone, even after considering cortisol levels and anthropomorphization of the slot machine. An exploratory analysis supported a link between positive affect (higher in winners) and decreases in testosterone, which suggested that the winner-loser effect may be reversed in slot machine gambling. In addition, baseline testosterone predicted a slower rate of gambling. The results of this study add to a growing literature on the boundary conditions of the winner-loser effect, which inform future examinations of the role of testosterone in gambling behaviour.

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