Mixed Emotions to Near-Miss Outcomes: A Psychophysiological Study with Facial Electromyography
Near-misses occur across many forms of gambling and are rated as unpleasant while simultaneously increasing the motivation to continue playing. On slot machines, the icon position relative to the payline moderates the effects of near-misses, with near-misses before the payline increasing motivation, and near-misses after the payline being rated as aversive. Near-misses are also known to increase physiological arousal compared to full-misses, but physiological measures to date have not been able to dissociate positive and negative emotional responses. The present study measured facial electromyography at the corrugator (brow) and zygomaticus (cheek) sites, as well as electrodermal activity (EDA), following gambling outcomes on a two-reel slot machine simulation in 77 novice gamblers. Behavioral data was collected using trial-by-trial ratings of motivation and valence. Wins were rated as more pleasant and increased motivation to continue playing, compared to non-win outcomes. Wins were also accompanied by increased EDA and zygomaticus activity. Near-misses after the payline were rated as more aversive than other non-wins, and this was accompanied by increased EDA and zygomaticus activity. Near-misses before the payline increased motivation to continue playing, and were accompanied by increased EDA. Thus, both subjective and physiological responses to near-misses differ for events falling either side of the payline. The ‘near-miss effect’ is not a unitary phenomenon. Facial EMG has differential sensitivity to positive and negative valence and may be a useful measure for future studies of gambling behavior.