Exploring the Underlying Psychological Processes of Gambling Behaviour: Individual and Contextual Factors

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Melsom, Elisabeth
gambling , attitudes , impulsivity
High levels of impulsivity, positive gambling attitudes, and positive gambling beliefs are identified as risk factors for pathological gambling and related symptoms in numerous surveys and naturalistic studies. However, there remains a need for experimental studies, as we know little about how the effects of these variables on gambling emerge or the contextual factors that may exacerbate or attenuate these effects. The current project thus tests whether direct effects of impulsivity, attitudes, and beliefs on within-session gambling exist in a controlled environment and examines whether the relationships among these variables and bet perception and betting differ in a spontaneous vs. a deliberative context or according to the desirability of the bets. Three experiments were conducted using a computerized gambling task. The first experiment (N=151) had two time conditions: spontaneous and deliberative; and two desirability conditions: high desirability and low desirability (both conditions included ambiguous bets). Participants’ level of impulsivity, attitudes, and beliefs were assessed. No significant main effects of impulsivity, attitudes, and beliefs on betting emerged; however, the time and desirability conditions did have an effect. The second experiment (N=156) replicated the first experiment, but also explored the role of perceptions. When participants were asked to reflect on their perceptions, impulsivity, attitudes, and beliefs significantly related to participants’ bet perceptions and to betting on ambiguous bets. The third experiment (N=142) further explored responses to ambiguous bets by removing the impact of the desirability condition. Consistent with experiment two, attitudes and impulsivity related to bet perceptions and betting. The effects of impulsivity, attitudes, and beliefs on amount wagered were fully mediated by participants’ perceptions of bets.
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