Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.


34th Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2008

Event Details

Previous Page


Symposium #280
Gambling, Pigeons, Smokers, College Students, and the Elderly
Sunday, May 25, 2008
4:00 PM–5:20 PM
Chicago & Alton
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Amber Waterman (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale)
Abstract: The study of gambling behavior has drawn more interest in recent years, and experimental analyses with different populations could help provide information about how different individuals exhibit gambling behavior and the maintaining variables behind that behavior. The current symposium presents discussions of gambling behavior in basic animal research, among older individuals in a nursing home, among smokers and nonsmokers, and the effects of accurate information on gambling behavior.
Risky Choice in a Token-Reinforcement Context: Implications for an Animal Model of Gambling.
CARLA H. LAGORIO (University of Florida), Timothy D. Hackenberg (University of Florida)
Abstract: Animal models of gambling lack a realistic currency akin to money in human gambling systems. In the present line of research, we made use of a token-reinforcement system to more closely approximate human economic systems. In our initial experiment along these lines, pigeons were given repeated choices between variable and fixed numbers of tokens (stimulus lamps arrayed above the response keys), with each earned token later exchangeable for food. The average number of tokens provided by the variable option was systematically manipulated across conditions, while the fixed option was held constant. the number of tokens for the variable option comprised an exponential distribution, with a range of possible payoffs between 0 and 12 tokens. This distribution-type provides many zero and small-amount payoffs, common to gambling situations, but also provides the possibility of a big win. Initial results indicate preference for the variable option when both alternatives provide the same average number of tokens. When the alternatives provide different numbers of tokens, preferences are largely biased towards the option providing greater average payoff. These results indicate that risk sensitivity with respect to reinforcer amount can be attained with a token-reinforcement paradigm, a finding with implications for the development of an animal model of gambling.
Assessing Indices of Happiness of Slot Machine Gamblers Residing in a Nursing Home.
AMBER WATERMAN (Southern Illinois University at Carbondale), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: The present study explored the application of assessment of happiness in persons with various developmental disabilities to the elderly living in nursing homes. Initially a group of residents were screened for a history of gambling, and then completed a preference assessment between gambling and non-gambling related stimuli. Upon demonstrating a preference for gambling stimuli, each resident was exposed to a simulated slot machine that paid jackpots approximately 33% of the time. Upon the completion of each trial the physical characteristics of the resident were assessed (i.e. facial expressions of happiness, unhappiness, or neutral). Additionally, pre-gambling, post-gambling, and 1 hour follow up assessments were conducted to compare the gambling experience to other times of the day for each resident. Results indicate that brief exposure to a simulated gambling game can improve the relative happiness of individuals in long term care facilities who enjoy gambling.
The Effect of Nicotine when Smokers and Nonsmokers Gamble on a Slot Machine.
ELLEN MEIER (University of North Dakota), Jeffrey N. Weatherly (University of North Dakota)
Abstract: The present study was designed to determine if smokers and nonsmokers would gamble differently when given small doses of nicotine. Nicotine has been shown to have an effect on several different types of behavior. Furthermore, research has shown that an unusually high number of pathological gamblers are also smokers. Participants were non-pathological males and females 21 years of age or older. Participants were randomly assigned to either chew a 2 mg piece of Nicorette® or the control gum. After participants had begun chewing the gum, they completed several surveys designed to assess their gambling behavior and level of nicotine dependency. Participants then gambled money they had been staked on a slot machine. Results indicated that participants given nicotine gambled significantly less than those not given nicotine. Females also gambled significantly less than males. Participants’ smoking history did not significantly influence gambling. Implications of these results are discussed.
Can Accurate Information Alter Gambling on a Slot Machine?
JEFFREY N. WEATHERLY (University of North Dakota), Ellen Meier (University of North Dakota)
Abstract: Behavior-analytic research has demonstrated that gambling behavior can be controlled by verbal instructions, sometimes even overpowering the contingencies programmed by the game itself. Outside of behavior analysis, many researchers have proposed that pathological gambling is linked to certain cognitive fallacies held by gamblers. The present experiment investigated whether providing participants with accurate information about slot machines would alter how those individuals would gamble when playing the slot machine. Participants were staked with $5 to play a slot machine. All participants played in two baseline sessions. The participants were then given accurate information about the independence of plays on a slot machine, the diminishing rate of return programmed by games of chance, or both. Participants were then given the opportunity to gamble in two additional sessions. Results demonstrated that the accurate information hand only a modest influence on gambling behavior. Thus, these results suggest that, if gamblers’ behavior is largely rule governed, the information alone is not enough to greatly alter those rules.



Back to Top
Modifed by Eddie Soh