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.


31st Annual Convention; Chicago, IL; 2005

Event Details

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Symposium #173
CE Offered: BACB
Is Verbal Behavior Necessary to Understand Gambling?
Sunday, May 29, 2005
10:30 AM–11:50 AM
International South (2nd floor)
Area: EAB; Domain: Basic Research
Chair: Beau Laughlin (Southern Illinois University)
Discussant: Steven R. Hursh (Johns Hopkins University)
CE Instructor: Mark R. Dixon, Ph.D.

This symposium will address how an understanding of verbal behavior can contribute to a behavior analytic account of gambling.

Toward an Animal Model of Gambling: Rats Playing a Slot Machine
JEFFREY N. WEATHERLY (University of North Dakota), Jeri Nurnberger (University of North Dakota), Carla J. Demaine (University of North Dakota)
Abstract: Although gambling behavior in people can be studied in the laboratory, it is sometimes impossible to manipulate variables (e.g., debt) that likely contribute to that behavior. Thus, it may be worthwhile to develop an animal model of gambling because it may become possible to manipulate such variables. The present study was an initial step toward developing an animal model of gambling. Rats were trained to press a lever on a fixed-ratio (FR) schedule. Upon completion of the FR, stimulus lights in a 3 X 3 grid flashed for 5 s. At certain probabilities, the left column of lights (small win, 0.05 ml of 5% sucrose), middle column (medium win, 0.2 ml of 5% sucrose), right column (big win, food pellet), or diagonal pattern (loss, nothing) resulted. The behavior of rats on this mock slot-machine procedure was compared to control rats responding on a similar procedure minus the stimulus lights. Results demonstrated that the “gambling” rats behaved differently than controls. Perhaps more importantly, their behavior was also similar to that of humans playing a slot machine. The results are discussed in the context of how additional research using this model may advance our understanding of gambling behavior in people.
Biasing Response Allocations on Concurrently Available Slot Machines via Rule Governed Behavior
ASHTON J. ROBINSON (Southern Illinois University), Mark R. Dixon (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Though slot machines are the most popular form of gambling behavior, a complete analysis of slot machine play is lacking from a behavioral analysis perspective. Because investigating slot machine play in the natural casino environment is not feasible, it is logical to create analog simulations to study this behavior. Visual Basic.NET provides flexibility for creating realistic slot simulations that allow for control over every aspect of play. This presentation will focus on two experiments that were designed to examine common variables occurring during slot play and assess relative impacts on preference. In the first experiment reinforcer magnitude and density were manipulated at various unit prices. Results showed that for most subjects, preference across the two machines was sensitive to altering these variables, yet deviations could be readily produced via in introduction of various classes of rules (tracks, plys, and augments). In the second experiment, the proportion of trials that were close to winning, or “near-misses” was manipulated along with the establishment of conditioned non-gambling stimulus functions. Obtained results suggest that topography of the near miss is not as important as its derived psychological function. Such derived functions are the product of verbal behavior, understood only with a post-Skinnerian analysis.
Verbal Relations Contribution to the Behavioral Economics of Gambling
MARK R. DIXON (Southern Illinois University)
Abstract: Although most gambling opportunities expose the subject to random-ratio schedule contingencies, these contingencies alone are insufficient to explain resulting behavior. This paper will describe the neglected role of verbal behavior research and how limited advances of Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior have hindered a behavioral understanding of gambling. Data will be presented illustrating the impact of verbal rules, self-generated and experimenter presented, on a behavioral economic analysis of gambling. The role of verbal stimuli as complements, substitutes, and commodities that alter demand elasticity will be highlighted using subjects playing the table games of roulette and craps. Implications for future basic research, applied treatments, and conceptual analyses of risk taking and gambling will be presented.



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