Major Grants

Examining the Relationship between Problem Gambling and Problematic Video Game Use (#78)

Project Approved 2015-16

Dr. James Sanders (Principal Investigator)
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge
Google Scholar Profile

Dr. Robert J. Williams (Co-principal Investigator)
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge
Google Scholar Profile


Studies suggest a number of shared characteristics between problem gambling and problematic video game use yet few studies have directly explored the relationship between these two. Of those that have explored this relationship, few have evaluated adults, and none have used longitudinal data. The current study will investigate the relationship between problem gambling and problematic video game use in adults using both longitudinal and cross-sectional data.

The primary objective of identifying shared variables that predict problem gambling and problem video game addiction was achieved. Further, this research identified the relationship between gambling and video game involvement as well as level of co-occurrence of problematic levels of each. In addition, this research generated knowledge of the role of implicit measures in identifying problem gambling.

This research answered important questions about the relationship between gambling and video gaming, which have been frequently compared in the past due to its shared structural characteristics and speculation that early involvement in video games can be a pathway to gambling later in life. Although both activities co-occur at recreational levels and the risk factors and manifestations of problem gaming and problem gambling are similar, involvement and/or over involvement in one is not a strong predictor of involvement and/or over involvement in the other.

Russell, G., Williams, R. J., & Sanders, J. L. (2019). The relationship between memory associations, gambling involvement, and problem gambling. Addictive Behaviors, 92, 47-52. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.12.015

Sanders, J. L., & Williams, R. J. (2018). The relationship between video gaming, gambling, and problematic levels of video gaming and gambling. Journal of Gambling Studieshttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-018-9798-3

Sanders, J. (2018, April). Out of Control? Experiences and problematic involvement of Magic: the Gathering players. Presented at the 5th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, Cologne, Germany. https://doi.org/10.1556/JBA.7.2018.Suppl.1 [page 28-29]

Sanders, J. (2017, April). Common and Distinguishing Mental Health and Addictive Features between Problem Gambling, Problem Video Game Playing, and Dual Problem Gambling/Problem Video Game Playing. Presented at the 15th Annual Conference of the Alberta Gambling Research Institute, Banff, Alberta.

Sanders, J. (2017, February). Factors distinguishing Problem Gamblers, Problem Video Gamers, and Dual Problem Gamblers/Video-Gamers. Presented at the 4th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, Haifa, Israel. http://dx.doi.org/10.1556/JBA.6.2017.Suppl.1 [page 48]

Sanders, J. (2017, February). Collectible Card Games: Another form of behavioral addiction? Presented at the 4th International Conference on Behavioral Addictions, Haifa, Israel. http://dx.doi.org/10.1556/JBA.6.2017.Suppl.1 [page 47-48]

Sanders, J. (2016, May 26). Video game addiction. Presentation given to Sunrise Rotary Club of Lethbridge, Lethbridge, Alberta.

Identifying Psychological Factors that Are Predictive of Attentional Bias in Gamblers: An Eye-tracking Study (#77)

Project Approved 2015-16

Dr. Daniel S. McGrath (Principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Dr. Christopher R. Sears (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Ms. Kristy Kowatch (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
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Mr. Hyoun S. Kim (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Google Scholar Profile ResearcherID: G-6114-2015

Dr. David C. Hodgins (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Google Scholar Profile | ORCiD: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2737-5200 | ResearcherID: F-4201-2011


Attentional bias, a process whereby preferential attention is paid toward substance-related stimuli following prolonged substance use, has been found to predict both drug use and relapse. In contrast, the role of attentional bias in disordered gambling remains poorly understood. The proposed study will explore possible associations between attentional bias measured with eye-gaze tracking and other psychological variables known to contribute to disordered gambling in a sample of community-recruited gamblers. This study will also attempt to identify which of these factors are especially predictive of attentional bias.

Several contemporary models of addiction suggest that important associations exist between attentional bias (AB) for substance-related cues and psychological mechanisms such as craving, expectancies, and trait impulsivity. An AB is the tendency to preferentially attend to stimuli which have gained incentive motivational properties as a result of frequent pairing with substance use. When compared to other addictive behaviours, little research has focused on similar relationships between these constructs and AB in disordered gambling (DG). In the present study, a laboratory-based investigation of AB was conducted in a sample of electronic gaming machine (EGM) players recruited from the local community. The primary goal of this research was to examine and compare the relative strength of associations between AB for gambling stimuli and several psychological factors known to contribute to DG such as subjective craving , gambling expectancies, and trait impulsivity. The study employed eye-gaze tracking technology to measure several indices of preferential attention toward gambling-related stimuli. While the nature of the investigation was largely exploratory, it was hypothesized that: EGM players would display an AB over controls; and that positive correlations would be found between gambling ABs and gambling severity, craving, expectancies, and motives (in particular coping motives).

A total of 137 participants (76 EGM players and 61 controls) were recruited from the local community, including EGM players which represented the continuum of gambling severity from non-DGs to DGs. All participants first completed a phone screen, with individuals who met inclusion and exclusion criteria then attending one test session at the University of Calgary. Each participant first completed an informed consent procedure. Next, participants were seated in front of an Eyelink 1000 Plus eye-tracking system (SR Research Ltd., Ottawa, Ontario) that records eye movements using infrared video-based tracking technology. A chin rest was used to reduce head movements and increase tracking accuracy. Using a free-viewing paradigm, participants observed a total of 84 trials with each trial consisting of four images presented for a total of 6 seconds. Twenty-eight trials consisted for one target gambling image and three matched neutral images, whereas the remaining 56 trials contained four neutral images (and no gambling images). All gambling images were randomized across the four quadrants on the screen. Several eye-tracking variables were recorded including: number of first fixations, time of first fixation, and mean total dwell time. When the eye-tracking session was finished, participants were then asked to complete a questionnaire package comprised of the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI), the Gambling Craving Scale (GAGS), Gambling Expectancies Questionnaire (GEQ), the Gambling Motives Questionnaire (GMQ-F), and the UPPS-P questionnaire. At the end of the test session, participants were debriefed and received compensation in the form of a gift card to an on line retailer of their choice.

For the analyses, we created a measure of gambling-image bias for each participant by first calculating the total fixation time (in ms) for gambling-related images as well as neutral images. The gambling bias was defined as the difference between these two means (in ms) across each participant. In terms of results, first, it was found that the control Qroup displayed a bias toward neutral over gambling images. As expected, gambling biases were seen among non-DGs; however, the significantly largest gambling bias was displayed by DGs. Next, correlational analyses were conducted between the gambling bias variable and other gambling factors including craving, motives, and expectancies among the participants who were gamblers. For craving indices, the results suggested a positive correlation with the GACs Desire subscale (r = 0.25); the Anticipation subscale (r = 0.34); and the Relief subscale (r = 0.32). For GEQ expectancies, Enjoyment (r = 0.29), Self-enhancement (r = 0.30), Overinvolvement (r = 0.26), and particularly Emotional Impact (r = 0.40) were all correlated with gambling bias. The Money subscale was not significant. Lastly, several motives for gambling were also correlated with gambling bias, particularly Enhancement (r = 0.25), Coping (r = 0.35), and Financial (r = 0.33). Social motives were not correlated with bias. These results suggest that certain state-based processes (e.g., craving, expectancies) as well as trait-based characteristics gambling variables (e.g., motives) are related to AB in gamblers. While these results are interesting and contribute to the literature on gambling AB, replication in a clinical sample of individuals with gambling disorder may provide additional insight into the most relevant gambling correlates of gambling AB. Ultimately, these results may have important implications for the treatment and relapse-prevention in gambling disorder by identifying potential momentary influences on gambling to target for modification. Finally, additional analyses will be conducted with a subset of the data examining the potential moderating role of UPPS-P impulsivity traits in AB among gamblers.

Historically in the field of addictions, a great deal of emphasis has been directed toward identifying explicit influences implicated in behavior. In gambling disorder, a number of potential underlying mechanisms have been uncovered. Among these, cognitive factors such as irrational thoughts and beliefs have been identified as important contributors to the maintenance of disordered gambling. However, most research has focused on explicit thoughts and have overlooked implicit. Attentional biases are a measure of the strength of preferential attention directed toward gambling vs. non-gambling stimuli. Ultimately, these biases provide a window into the implicit cognition patterns associated with gambling. First, this study further establishes the existence of attentional biases in gambling, in particular among DGs. Moreover, the use of eye-gaze tracking to identify gambling biases is a strength of the experiment as the technology has been underutilized in gambling research. In addition, this study represents the first known attempt to systematically examine associations between specific state and trait based gambling variables and attentional biases in gamblers. Ultimately, understanding which motives, expectancies, and traits are most strongly related to attentional biases could provide key information for the design of more effective attentional bias modifications programs.

Coelho, S. G., Sears, C. R., Kim, H. S., & McGrath, D. S. (2023). The reliability of attentional biases for gambling-related images in free-viewing eye-tracking paradigms. Addictive Behaviors, 139, 107575. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addbeh.2022.107575 

Kim, H. S., Ritchie, E. V., Sears, C. R., Hodgins, D. C., Kowatch, K. R., & McGrath, D. S. (2022). Affective impulsivity moderates the relationship between disordered gambling severity and attentional bias in electronic gaming machine (EGM) players. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 11(2), 386-395. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.2022.00043

Kim, H. S., Sears, C., Hodgins, D. C., Ritchie, E., Kowatch, K., & McGrath, D. (2021). Gambling-related psychological predictors and moderators of attentional bias among electronic gaming machine players. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/adb0000716

McGrath, D.S. (2019, June). Psychological factors associated with gambling attentional biases in electronic gambling machine players. Presentation at the 2019 Canadian Psychological Association National Convention, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

McGrath, D.S. (2018, April). Psychological factors associated with gambling attentional biases in electronic gambling machine players. Presentation at the Alberta Gambling Research Institute's (AGRI) 17th Annual Conference, Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Towards Understanding Addiction Substitution: An Examination of Substituted vs. Recovered Gamblers (#76)

Project Approved 2015-16

Dr. David Hodgins (Principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Google Scholar Profile | ORCiD: http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2737-5200 | ResearcherID: F-4201-2011

Mr. Hyoun S. Kim (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Google Scholar Profile ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-0804-0256  ResearcherID: G-6114-2015

Dr. Daniel McGrath (Co-principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Calgary
Google Scholar Profile ORCiD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2772-942X


Addiction substitution (i.e., increasing the use of an addictive behaviour during recovery) has important clinical implications as it may increase the risk of relapse or result in the development of a new addictive behaviour. Unfortunately, little is known about the process of addiction substitution among disordered gamblers. The proposed research is designed to provide a greater understanding of addiction substitution by (i) conducting a systematic review of addiction substitution and (ii) empirically assessing addiction substitution among gamblers using a mixed-method (i.e., qualitative and quantitative) approach.

The objective of the grant was to increase our theoretical and practical understanding of addiction substitution generally and among disordered gamblers more specifically. To this end, we conducted a systematic review of addiction substitution and a mixed-method investigation of the recovery processes and characteristics of people who have recovered from gambling and engaged in addiction substitution.

A total of 79 articles were identified and synthesized for the systematic review. The results of the systematic review advanced the knowledge of this important clinical concept in several important ways. First, 18.18% of the studies found statistical support for addiction substitution. This is in contrast to the 50.91% of studies that reported rather than increasing other addictions, people decreased comorbid addictions when recovering from a primary addiction (i.e., concurrent recovery). Twenty-one studies provided results on predictors of addiction substitution with increased severity of addictions at baseline and presence of mental health disorders being associated with addiction substitution. Increasing other addictions was also associated with worse treatment outcomes. In regard to gambling specifically, only one study was found. Thus, there exists a substantial gap examining changes in other addictions during recovery from gambling.

The second study consisted of a mixed-method study investigating the recovery processes and characteristics of people (N=186) who recovered from gambling. Participants were categorized in three groups: those who engaged in substitution (n=40), those who engaged in concurrent recovery (n=58) and those who did neither (i.e., controls, n=39). Furthermore, 24 participants engaged in reverse substitution (that is, recovered from a substance use and switched to gambling). Fourteen engaged in both substitution and concurrent recovery and 11 were unable to be categorized.

Regarding recovery processes, individuals who reported substituting to other addictions during recovery reported experiencing negative affect when doing so. The most frequently reported reasons for increasing other addictions were to distract themselves from gambling and as a coping mechanism. Individuals who engaged in concurrent recovery reported greater positive affect and confidence when decreasing other addictions. The most frequently reported reason for decreasing other addictions was because gambling and the secondary addiction (e.g., alcohol) were connected. For example, participants reported that they would only drink while gambling. Thus, reducing alcohol went hand in hand with recovery from gambling.

Regarding psychological characteristics, there were several significant differences with similar pattern of results. Specifically, participants who engaged in addiction substitution reported greater levels of impulsivity, emotion dysregulation, childhood adversity, lack of social support, and maladaptive coping skills compared to control participants and those who engaged in concurrent recovery. Compared to participants who engaged in addiction substitution or concurrent recovery, control participants reported lower levels of impulsivity, emotion dysregulation, childhood adversity and greater social support and use of adaptative coping skills.

Taken together, the mixed-method study contributed to our knowledge by providing support for the hypothesis that people are more likely to engage in addiction substitution if the underlying issue leading to the problematic gambling are not addressed in treatment.

The grant also enhanced team-building and collaborations at the University of Calgary. First and foremost, the grant represented the first collaboration between Dr. Hodgins and Dr. McGrath. This experience had led to numerous additional collaborations including grants and manuscripts. Additionally, Dr. Kristin von Ranson became a collaborator to assist with the systematic review given her previous expertise.

The results from the grant may have important impact in the treatment of gambling disorder as well as other addictions. First, the results of the systematic review suggested that more research is needed in the area of addiction substitution. In particular, the systematic review identified several gaps in the literature that could be addressed to enhance treatment outcomes for people recovering from addictions, including gambling. This is of clinical importance given addiction substitution was consistently associated with worse treatment outcomes. The mixed-method investigation identified the importance of addressing underlying psychological processes that is leading to problematic engagement of gambling, such as emotion dysregulation and maladaptive coping skills. These results further support the potential benefit of a transdiagnostic treatment model of addictions that address common underlying mechanisms of addictions. At a practical level, the results speak to the importance of monitoring changes in addiction during recovery and to incorporate psycho-education on addiction substitution as part of relapse prevention for the treatment of gambling generally and addictions more specifically.

Kim, H. S., McGrath, D. S., & Hodgins, D. C. (2023). Addiction substitution and concurrent recovery in gambling disorder: Who substitutes and why? Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 12(3), 682-696. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.2023.00046 

Kim, H. S., Hodgins, D. C., Garcia, X., Ritchie, E. V., Musani, I., McGrath, D. S., & von Ranson, K. M. (2021). A systematic review of addiction substitution in recovery: Clinical lore or empirically-based? Clinical Psychology Review, 89, 102083. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102083

Kim, H. S. & Hodgins, D.C. (2018, September). From the slots to the bottle: A mixed-method study of addiction substitution among recovered gamblersPaper presented at the 12th European Conference on Gambling Studies and Policy Issues, Valletta, Malta.

Hodgins, D. C., & Kim, H. S. (2018, June). Using a trans-diagnostic approach to treating addictions. Invited paper presented at the 10th Annual Addiction Day. Calgary, Alberta.

Kim, H. S. (2018, February). Component Model of Addiction Treatment: A transdiagnostic treatment for substance and behavioral addictions. Paper presented at the 2018 Psychology Research Day, Alberta Health Services, Calgary, AB. No papers or proceedings are available.

Kim, H. S., Musani, I., Tejpar, S., McGrath, D. S., & Hodgins, D. C. (April, 2017). Do disordered gamblers become problem substance users upon recovery? A systematic review of addiction substitution. Poster presented at the 2017 Alberta Gambling Research Institute Conference, Banff, Alberta.

Kim, H. S., McGrath, D. S., Hodgins, D. C. (October, 2016). Addiction substitution: What do we know and what do we need to know? Poster presented at the 2016 Annual Killam Celebration, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta.

Hodgins, D.C. (May, 2020) Addiction Substitution. Grand Rounds, Department of Health Psychology, University of Manitoba.

Kim, H. S. (January, 2020). Substance and behavioral addictions: The benefits of a unified treatment approach. Invited talk to the Substance Use and Concurrent Disorders Unit, Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Kim, H. S. (January, 2019). The utility of transdiagnostic treatment approaches to addictions. Invited talk for Gambling Research Exchange Ontario, Guelph, ON, Canada.

Kim, H. S. (2018, Nov). What is an addiction, and can one treatment approach be effective for all? The potential utility of the Component Model of Addiction Treatment. Invited presentation to the Boramae Medical Centre, Seoul National University’s Department of Psychiatry, Seoul, South Korea.

Kim, H. S. (2018, April). A transdiagnostic approach to addictions and its implications for sex addiction. Invited presentation to the Sexual Compulsion Treatment Program, Institute of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Kim, H. S. (2017, November). A trans-diagnostic treatment model for addictive disorders. Invited talk for the Addiction Centre, Foothills Hospital, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Kim. H. S. (2017, October). Trans-diagnostic treatment for addictive disorders. Talk at the 2017 Mental Health NeuroTeam Scientific Retreat. Hotchkiss Brain Institute, Calgary, AB.

Kim, H. S. (2017, October). Towards a unified approach of treatment for addictive disorders. Invited talk for the Adult Addiction Services, Calgary, AB, Canada.

Kim, H. S. (2017, September). A trans-diagnsotic treatment model of addictive disorders. Talk at the 2017 Research Achievement Day. University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

Kim, H. S. (2017, July). All for one or one for all: Towards a trans-diagnostic treatment of addictive disorders. Invited presentation to the General Psychiatry Grand Rounds, Institute of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine University of Sao Paulo, Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Kim, H. S. & Hodgins, D. C. (2017, April). Quitting the Slots but Hitting the Bottle: Addiction Substitution among Disorders Gamblers. Webinar for the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling.

Implications of Integration of Mental Health and Addiction Systems for Problem Gambling Treatment: Case Studies of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario (#75)

Dr. Darren Christensen (Principal Investigator)
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge

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Dr. Gabriela Novotna (Co-principal investigator)
Faculty of Social Work, University of Regina

Dr. Rebecca Hudson Breen (Co-investigator)
Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Lethbridge

Google Scholar Profile

Dr. Eli Teram (Co-investigator)
Lyle S. Hallman Faculty of Social Work, Wilfrid Laurier University


This project will examine the diffusion of the concept of integration in mental health and substance abuse services and systems in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Ontario, and the implications of the integrations for problem gambling treatment.

The purpose of this multiple, instrumental case study was to explore the process of integration of mental health and substance use services in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan in relation to the delivery of problem gambling treatment. Semi-structured interviews with 47 decision-makers and gambling treatment service providers in the three provinces were conducted. In addition, the review of national and provincial legislation and policies enacted between the years 1990 and 2020 was conducted to provide the context of the integration efforts. The study’s findings were interpreted from an institutional theory perspective to elucidate the mechanism that led to dissemination of the concepts of integration across the jurisdictions.

Findings suggest that the dissemination of the integration concept was supported by some of the dominant institutional logics that needed to be worked out over time and accepted at all organizational levels (clinical, organizational, policy-making).  Furthermore, the competing interests of all-level actors are connected to co-existing institutional logics and led to developing “localized versions” of integration. In addition to providing the comparative analysis among the three jurisdictions, a more specific, context-dependent data analysis has been conducted in each province.

The findings of this study provide an account of the policy, administrative and clinical changes in the treatment of problem gambling in three provinces that were related the restructuring of their health care services, specifically integration of mental health and addiction sectors. In addition, the study findings will enhance the understanding of policymakers and service planners’ decisions and behaviours from the institutional theory perspective.

Mfoafo-M’Carthy, M., Moasun, F., Novotna, G., & Christensen, D. (2022). The typologies of mental health, addiction, and problem gambling systems integration in ontario. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-021-00551-w

Novotna, G., Christensen, D., Hudson Breen, R., Teram, E., & Mfoafo-M'Carthy, M. Multiple institutional logics in problem gambling treatment in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan: A case study. (ABSTRACT). In Proceedings from 24th Qualitative Health Research Conference, Halifax, NS, October 27-29, 2018. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Volume 18: 1-20. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F1609406918819364 [Open Access]

Novotna, G. (2020, January 23). Institutional Theory in Social Work Research on Human Service Organizations. UBC: Vancouver Campus. Invited research talk at the University of British Columbia, Faculty of Social Work (the project-related findings were part of the presentation on Dr. Novotna’s research program informed by Institutional Theory).

Novotna, G., Christensen, D., Hudson Breen, R., Teram, E., & Mfoafo-M'Carthy, M. (2019). Institutional Logics as an Analytical Framework for Understanding the Organizational Delivery of Problem Gambling Treatment in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan. Poster presented at Blurred Lines in Gambling Research, Alberta Gambling Research Institute's 18th Annual Conference. Banff, March 28-30, 2019.

Novotna, G., Christensen, D., Hudson Breen, R., Teram, E., & Mfoafo-M'Carthy, M. (2018). Multiple Institutional Logics in Problem Gambling Treatment in Alberta, Ontario, and Saskatchewan: A Case Study. Poster presented at the 24th Qualitative Health Research Conference, Halifax, NS, October 27-29, 2018.

Information about the project was published in the University of Regina research newsletter "Discourse" Fall 2016/Winter 2017 (p. 20).

Reducing the Allure of Winning Cues in Gambling (#74)

Project Approved 2015-16

Dr. Marcia Spetch (Principal Investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Alberta
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Dr. Elliot Ludvig (Co-principal investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Warwick

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Dr. Christopher Madan (Co-principal investigator)
Department of Psychology, Boston College
Google Scholar Profile

Dr. Neil McMillan (Co-principal investigator)
Department of Psychology, University of Alberta

Google Scholar Profile


Our research goal is to characterize the motivating and reinforcing effects of winning cues on gambling behavior and evaluate intervention techniques and treatment nudges for reducing the attractiveness of gambles. This proposal aims to: 1) test the effects of winning cues as reminders and conditioned reinforcers of gambling behavior in frequent or at-risk gamblers and in non-gambling controls, and 2) assess the efficacy of interventions based on principles of learning to reduce the effect of winning cues on gambling behavior. This research will advance our understanding of gambling behavior and contribute to the development of interventions to prevent or treat problem gambling.

Our identified objectives were partially achieved but the results of several initial studies were different than expected. Our objectives were to develop tasks to investigate the role of winning cues on risky choice and then to develop intervention procedures to reduce the impact of these cues. We developed several tasks using simulated slot machines to test the effects of audiovisual winning cues on choice. In our first studies, we paired initially neutral cues with winning or losing and we varied whether the cues were presented prior to the win (predictive condition) or at the time of the win (concurrent condition). Surprisingly, we found only small and inconsistent effects of these cues on risky choice behavior. At the same time, our previously identified effect of extreme outcomes (i.e., the best and the worst) had larger and consistent effects on risky choice. In our most recent experiment, we used natural casino sounds as the cues paired with winning or losing. Although these sounds had a significant effect on choice, it did not matter whether they were paired with winning or with losing, or whether they were presented predictively or concurrently. Thus, it appears that the presentation of general casino sounds can increase the tendency to gamble, but the effect does not appear to require a specific association with winning. This series of experiment is currently being prepared for publication.

In another study, we investigated the effect of the tempo of background music on risky choice, since background sounds have also been implicated in gambling. We did not find any effect of this manipulation, despite showing a strong effect of extreme outcomes on choice.

We contributed in several ways to the advancement of knowledge regarding risky choice and gambling behavior. We completed and published two sets of studies (Ludvig et al., 2018; Madan et al., 2017) showing that people overweight outcome values that fall at or near the ends of a distribution of experienced values (i.e., the best and the worst outcomes), and this leads to increase risk seeking for the highest valued choices and reduced risky seeking for the lowest valued choices. In another series of experiments that we are preparing for publication, we found that these effects are context dependent. Even within the same experimental session, same values can serve as the top end of the distribution in one context and the bottom end of the distribution in another context. Thus, for the very same choice, people will show different levels of risk seeking based on the context. This context specificity has implications for gambling behavior because it suggests that interventions that reduce gambling behavior in one context may not necessarily generalize to other contexts (e.g., different casinos or even different machines). In another series of studies, my students and I explored the role of near miss stimuli in gambling persistence. Across several studies we did not see an enhancement of persistence by near-miss stimuli in comparison to far-miss stimuli. Moreover, a review of the literature suggested that the near miss effect on gambling persistence is less consistent than often assumed. Our manuscript is currently under revision. Finally, we published a comprehensive review of our recent research on how extremes outcomes affect risky choice (Madan et al., 2019).

Madan, C. R., Spetch, M. L., Machado, F. M. D. S., Mason, A., & Ludvig, E. A. (2021). Encoding Context Determines Risky Choice. Psychological Science, 32(5), 743–754. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797620977516

Pisklak, J. M., Yong, J. H.  & Spetch, M. L. (2019). The near-miss effect in slot machines: A review and experimental analysis over half a century later.  Journal of Gambling Studieshttps://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-019-09891-8 [Open Access]

Madan, C. R., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2019). Comparative inspiration: From puzzles with pigeons to novel discoveries with humans in risky choice. Behavioural processes, 160, 10-19. https://doi-org.ezproxy.uleth.ca/10.1016/j.beproc.2018.12.009 [Open Access]

Ludvig, E. A. & Madan, C. R. & Spetch, M.L.  (2018). Living near the edge: How extreme outcomes and their neighbors drive risky choice.  Journal of Experimental Psychology, General. 147(12), 1905-1918. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/xge0000414

Madan, C. R., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2017). The role of memory in distinguishing risky decisions from experience and description. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 70(10), 2048-2059. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17470218.2016.1220608

Spetch, M.L. (2018, May).   Playing it Safe or Taking a Risk: The Role of Extreme Outcomes in Risky Choice and Memory. Association for Behavior Analysis International, San Diego, CA. Invited Talk.

Yong, J.H., Pisklak, J.M. & Spetch, M.L.  (2018, May) Do near misses influence slot machine choice? Association for Behavior Analysis International, San Diego, CA. 

Madan, C. R., Pisklak, J., M., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2018, April). Risky choice in pigeons and humans. 25th International Conference on Comparative Cognition (CO3). Melbourne, FL. Invited Talk.

Ludvig, E. A., Pisklak, J., M., Madan, C. R., & Spetch, M. L. (2017). Gambling in people and pigeons. Decision Making and Economic Psychology Workshop. Beersheva, Israel. Invited Talk.

Ludvig, E. A., Madan, C. R., & Spetch, M. L. (2017). The interaction of rarity and extremity in risky decisions from experience. Subjective Probability, Utility, and Decision-Making Conference (SPUDM26), Haifa, Israel.

Ludvig, E. A. (2017). Reinforcement learning in decisions from experience. Society for Mathematical Psychology. Coventry, UK. Invited Talk for Symposium on Models of Decisions from Experience.

Ludvig, E. A. (2016). Reinforcement learning from replayed experience. Computational Models of Classical Conditioning (CoMoCC). London, UK.

Ludvig, E. A. (2016). Pigeons and people gamble alike. Young Talent Roundtable at Foundations of Utility and Risk (FUR-2016). Coventry, UK. Invited Talk

Madan, C. R., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2017). Context effects in risky decisions from experience. Reinforcement Learning & Decision-Making (RLDM 2017). Ann Arbor, MI. [Research Poster].

Madan, C. R., Ludvig, E. A., & Spetch, M. L. (2016). Reward-related decisions from description and experience: Contributions of common and distinct valuation processes. International Conference of the Psychonomic Society. Granada, Spain.

McMillan, N., Madan, C. R., Long, J., Ludvig, E. A., Spetch, M. L. (2016). Recent experience with relative losses has lasting effects on risk preference. Alberta Gambling Research Institute (AGRI) Conference. Banff, AB. [Research Poster].