Gambler Risk Perception: A Mental Model and Grounded Theory Analysis

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Few studies have investigated how gamblers perceive risk or the role of risk perception in disordered gambling. The purpose of the current study therefore was to obtain data on lay gamblers’ beliefs on these variables and their effects on decision-making, behaviour, and disordered gambling aetiology. Fifteen regular lay gamblers (non-problem/low risk, moderate risk and problem gamblers) completed a semi-structured interview following mental models and grounded theory methodologies. Gambler interview data was compared to an expert ‘map’ of risk-perception, to identify comparative gaps or differences associated with harmful or safe gambling. Systematic overlapping processes of data gathering and analysis were used to iteratively extend, saturate, test for exception, and verify concepts and themes emerging from the data. The preliminary findings suggested that gambler accounts supported the presence of expert conceptual constructs, and to some degree the role of risk perception in protecting against or increasing vulnerability to harm and disordered gambling. Gambler accounts of causality, meaning, motivation, and strategy were highly idiosyncratic, and often contained content inconsistent with measures of disordered gambling. Disordered gambling appears heavily influenced by relative underestimation of risk and overvaluation of gambling, based on explicit and implicit analysis, and deliberate, innate, contextual, and learned processing evaluations and biases.