Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 521–531 | Cite as

An Animal Model of Slot Machine Gambling: The Effect of Structural Characteristics on Response Latency and Persistence

  • Heather Peters
  • Maree Hunt
  • David Harper
Original Paper


Despite the prevalence of problem gamblers and the ethical issues involved in studying gambling behavior with humans, few animal models of gambling have been developed. When designing an animal model it is necessary to determine if behavior in the paradigm is similar to human gambling. In human studies, response latencies following winning trials and near win trials are greater than those following clear losses. Weatherly and Derenne (Anal Gambl Behav 1:79–89, 2007) investigated whether this pattern was found with rats working in an animal analogue of slot machine gambling. They found a similar pattern of response latencies but the subjects’ behavior did not come under control of the visual stimuli signalling the different outcomes. The animal model of slot machine gambling we used addressed procedural issues in Weatherly and Derenne’s model and examined whether reinforcer magnitude and the presence of near win trials influenced response latency and resistance to extinction. Response latencies of the six female Norway Hooded rats varied as a function of reinforcer magnitude and the presence of near-win trials. These results are consistent with prior research and with the idea that near win trials serve as conditional reinforcers.


Gambling Near-win Reinforcer magnitude Animal analogue 



The authors wish to acknowledge the Science Faculty of Victoria University of Wellington and the Open Polytechnic for grants that supported this research and Kevin Grieg’s able assistance in collecting the data.


  1. Abbott, M. W. (2001). Problem and non-problem gamblers in New Zealand: A report on phase two of the 1999 national prevalence survey. Report number six of the New Zealand gaming survey. Wellington: Department of Internal Affairs.Google Scholar
  2. Abbott, M. W., Volberg, R. A., & Rönnberg, S. (2004). Comparing the New Zealand and Swedish national surveys of gambling and problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 2, 237–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cote, D., Caron, A., Aubert, J., Desrochers, V., & Ladouceur, R. (2003). Near wins prolong gambling on a video lottery terminal. Journal of Gambling Studies, 19(4), 433–438.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Delfabbro, P. H., & Winefield, A. H. (1999). Poker machine gambling: An analysis of within session characteristics. British Journal of Psychology, 90, 425–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dixon, M. R., & Schreiber, J. B. (2002) Utilizing a computerized video poker simulation for the collection of data on gambling behavior. The Psychological Record, 52, 417–428.Google Scholar
  6. Dixon, M. R., & Schreiber, J. E. (2004). Near-miss effects on response latencies and win estimations of slot machine players. The Psychological Record, 54, 335–348.Google Scholar
  7. Giroux, I., & Ladouceur, R. (2006). The effect of near wins on the choice of a video lottery terminal. Gambling Research, 18, 69–75.Google Scholar
  8. Griffiths, M. D. (1999). The psychology of the near miss (revisited): A comment of Delfabbro and Winefield. British Journal of Psychology, 90, 441–445.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Griffiths, M. D., & Wood, R. (2001). The psychology of lottery gambling. International Gambling Studies, 1, 27–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Kassinove, J. I., & Schare, M. L. (2001). Effects of the ‘near miss’ and the ‘big win’ on persistence at slot machine gambling. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 15, 155–158.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Ladouceur, R., & Sevigny, S. (2002). Symbols presentation modality as a determinant of gambling behavior. The Journal of Psychology, 136, 443–448.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. MacLin, O., Dixon, M. R., Dougherty, D., & Small, S. (2007). Using a computer simulation of three slot machines to investigate a gambler’s preference among varying densities of near-miss alternatives. Behavior Research Methods, 39, 237–241.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Madden, G. J., Ewan, E. E., & Lagorio, C. H. (2007). Toward an animal model of gambling: Delay discounting and the allure of unpredictable outcomes. Journal of Gambling Studies, 23, 63–83.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Reid, R. L. (1986) The psychology of the near miss. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 2, 32–39.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Schreiber, J., & Dixon, M. R. (2001). Temporal characteristics of slot machine play in recreational gamblers. Psychological Reports, 89, 67–72.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  16. Skinner, B. F. (1953). Science and human behaviour. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  17. Strickland, L. H., & Grote, F. W. (1967). Temporal presentation of winning symbols and slot machine playing. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74, 10–13.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Weatherly, J. N., & Derenne, A. (2007). Rats playing a slot machine: A preliminary attempt at an animal gambling model. Analysis of Gambling Behavior, 1, 79–89.Google Scholar
  19. Wohl, M. J. A., & Enzle, M. E. (2003). The effects of near wins and near losses on self-perceived personal luck and subsequent gambling behavior. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 184–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Information and Social SciencesOpen PolytechnicLower HuttNew Zealand
  2. 2.School of PsychologyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations