Problem gambling linked to impulsivity

June 30, 2011 at 1:01 AM
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CAMBRIDGE, England, June 30 (UPI) -- University of Cambridge researchers report they found a link between impulsivity and belief in superstitious rituals and luck among in problem gamblers.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, found gamblers with higher levels of impulsivity were much more susceptible to errors in reasoning associated with gambling, such as carrying a lucky charm and explaining away recent losses by blaming bad luck or "cold" machines.

Dr. Luke Clark of the University of Cambridge says the link between impulsivity and gambling beliefs suggests that high impulsivity can predispose a range of more complex distortions -- such as superstitions -- that gamblers often experience.

Clark and colleagues at Imperial College London compared 30 gamblers seeking treatment at the National Problem Gambling Clinic with 30 non-gamblers from the general population. The researchers asked the participants a series of financial questions involving trade-offs between smaller amounts of money available today versus larger amounts of money in the future.

The problems gamblers were significantly more likely to choose the immediate reward despite the fact that it was less money. Additionally, a questionnaire showed that gamblers were particularly impulsive during high or low moods, which are frequently cues that can trigger gambling sprees.

The novel finding in the British gamblers was that those gamblers with higher levels of impulsivity were also more susceptible to various errors in reasoning that occur during gambling, including an increase in superstitious rituals and blaming losses on such things as bad luck.

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