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Encouraging Gamblers to Think Critically Using Generalised Analytical Priming is Ineffective at Reducing Gambling Biases


Gambling has been associated with an array of fallacious beliefs that foster risky gambling decisions. Research into other belief systems suggests that the endorsement of non-evidence based beliefs, such as the paranormal or conspiracy theories, can be reduced when people think more analytically. The purpose of this study was to explore whether an intervention designed to elicit analytical thinking was effective in altering the gambling beliefs and simulated gambling behaviour of 178 regular electronic gaming machine (EGM) gamblers (102 males, 76 female). Participants were randomly allocated to complete either an analytic or a neutral priming task, followed by completion of belief measures (erroneous and protective) and play on a simulated EGM game. Results failed to show that priming for analytical thinking changed betting on an EGM; including features of bet size, bet change, persistence and theoretical losses. Contrary to expectations, results suggest that priming analytical thinking using generalised interventions does not appear to be effective in altering peoples’ simulated gambling involvement or gambling beliefs. In fact, priming people to think more critically might be counterproductive by contributing to greater positive expectations about gambling outcomes. The results further suggested that the number of times a player alters their bet is a good indicator of theoretical gambling losses and is associated with irrational gambling cognitions. Interventions designed to promote safer thinking in gamblers should be implemented with care, as results from our study suggest that encouraging critical thinking in at-risk or problem gamblers may not be effective in reducing risky gambling.

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Fig. 1


  1. On occasions where the survey was completed in full more than once, the first response was retained (based on date and time of attempt) and later attempts were removed.


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Part of this research was supported under the Commonwealth Government’s Research Training Program/Research Training Scheme. I gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by the Australian Government and Central Queensland University. Funding agencies have had no involvement in the research design, methodology, conduct, analysis or write-up of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alexander Blaszczynski.

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Ethical Approval

This research involved human participants and received ethics approval from the Central Queensland Human Research Ethics Committee [Project Number: H16/04-075].

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Informed consent was provided by all participants included in the study.

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Armstrong, T., Rockloff, M., Browne, M. et al. Encouraging Gamblers to Think Critically Using Generalised Analytical Priming is Ineffective at Reducing Gambling Biases. J Gambl Stud 36, 851–869 (2020).

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