Please Explain: The Science of Gambling Addiction

Friday, February 01, 2013

Casinos have been adding more screen-based games in recent years. On this week’s Please Explain we’ll find out how screen-based gambling, like video slot machines, contribute to gambling addiction. Dr. Alain Dagher, neurologist and neuroscientist at Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, McGill University, and Dr. Natasha Dow Schüll, cultural anthropologist and associate professor at MIT's Program in Science, Technology, and Society talk about how the brain responds to gambling and what makes it addictive. Dr. Dow is the author of the new book, Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.


Dr. Alain Dagher and Dr. Natasha Dow Schüll

Comments [15]

John A.

Hearing the one caller talk about how his family was victimized, through his elderly mother, reminds me that I have never been of the side of legalizing gambling, For what that's worth to him and others like him.

Feb. 01 2013 04:23 PM
Noach from Bklyn

PSA: "Science Friday", on now on FM 93.9, sounds like it's gonna be a good one.

Feb. 01 2013 02:01 PM
Noach (anti-bankster traditionalist) from Bklyn

Can any discussion of gambling be complete without mention of what is by far the most destructive yet most legitimized and sanctioned form: that of the financial sector; Wall Street?

Feb. 01 2013 01:58 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

I'm not really hearing too much "science" here, just generalities.
I'm so happy I'm only addicted to video games. That addiction costs me less than $40 a month and give me many hours of adrenaline rushes. I've seen others lose their shirts over the years. I don't step foot in a casino. I've only been in 3 or 4 casinos in my life accompanying former friends. Just phoney glitz, glamor and free drinks just to rob you of your money.

Feb. 01 2013 01:53 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Someone asked about the role of genetics in gambling addiction; what about epigenetics?

Feb. 01 2013 01:53 PM
john from office

Len, please ask about the scratch off games??

Feb. 01 2013 01:51 PM
Robin from Manhattan

It seems that the lack of real coins with its associated ch-ching and the drop of the coins which has been replaced by a credit card swipe would have turned off all but the hard core gamblers.

Feb. 01 2013 01:50 PM
sean from brooklyn

I used to make corporate videos for a slot machine company. Was in vegas and wanted to use one of the crazy ones but they all had lines on them. Got to sit at on at 3am and hit a huge jackpot. Then realized that I was playing a penny slot. Only won $20. The lines were crazy.

Feb. 01 2013 01:48 PM
carl from queens

by gambling, we lose our two most valuable possessions, our time and our money... all casino owners are parasites... all gamblers are suckers... of course, myself included...

Feb. 01 2013 01:47 PM
Wayne from Nyc

For many, esp the elderly, there may be a social component which surrounds the actual activity of gambling (e.g., bus ride to casino, meals).

Feb. 01 2013 01:46 PM

The caller should have gone with her husband to Vegas to make sure he behaves.

Feb. 01 2013 01:40 PM
Eric from NYC

Don't slot machines now ring the bell and award a "win" even if you "win" less than the original bet?

Feb. 01 2013 01:34 PM
Peter from New York

Please ask the guest if we can move beyond positivistic neuropsychological explanations of human phenomena like gambling and addiction to accounts that take subjective experience seriously. Beyond behaviorism and simple stimulus/response theories.

Feb. 01 2013 01:33 PM
Larry from Brooklyn

The fact that the machines (and other games of chance) only pay out occasionally is in fact what increases the motivation to play. Being rewarded intermittently is called a partial reinforcement schedule and it tends to promote behavior even in the absence of reward. What appears to happen is that the subjects learns that reinforcement follows non-rewarded behavior (e.g. one level pull on the machine that does not produce reward will be followed by one that will). Dopamine is involved in cementing this form of learning.

Feb. 01 2013 01:33 PM
Noach from Bklyn

Please address the government-run gambling racket of lotteries and the way in which they prey upon the poor and working class. The luring, misleading advertising, etc.

(And in case you already did, I apologize)

Feb. 01 2013 01:14 PM

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