Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 275–293 | Cite as

The Desire to Gamble: The Influence of Outcomes on the Priming Effects of a Gambling Episode

  • Matthew M. Young
  • Michael J. A. Wohl
  • Kimberly Matheson
  • Steve Baumann
  • Hymie Anisman
Original Paper


The influence of gambling outcomes on the efficacy of a short gambling episode to prime motivation to continue gambling was determined in two experiments in which desire to gamble was evaluated while participants played a slot machine located in a virtual reality casino. In experiment 1, 38 high-risk [>3 Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)] [Ferris and Wynne (The Canadian problem gambling index: final report, 2001)] and 36 non-problem gamblers (0 PGSI) either won or lost a modest amount. Among high-risk gamblers, winning resulted in a greater increase in the desire to continue gambling than did losing. In experiment 2, 39 high-risk, 33 low-risk (0 < PGSI < 3), and 31 non-problem gamblers experienced either a single large win or a series of small wins (equivalent monetary gain). Participants were permitted to continue playing as long as they wanted (all subsequent spins being losses) thus permitting evaluation of persistence (resistance to extinction). Throughout, desire to gamble was assessed using a single item measure. High-risk gamblers who experienced a large win reported significantly greater desire to gamble upon voluntary cessation than those who experienced a series of small wins. It seems that the priming effects of a short gambling episode are contingent on the pattern of outcomes experienced by the gambler. The data were related to motivational factors associated with gambling, gambling persistence, and chasing losses.


Priming Craving Gambling Virtual reality Slot machines Pathology 



The research was supported by a research grant from the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (#2345) to Wohl, Matheson, and Anisman. The authors are grateful to Psychology Software Tools for the use of VR Worlds software and Rachel Thompson and Scott Fetzick for making the necessary modification to the software for the purpose of the two reported experiments. We also thank Carolyn Barnes and Tania Morrison for their assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew M. Young
    • 1
  • Michael J. A. Wohl
    • 1
  • Kimberly Matheson
    • 1
  • Steve Baumann
    • 2
  • Hymie Anisman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada
  2. 2.Psychology Software ToolsPittsburghUSA

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