Psych350 Learning and Memory

An exploration of how humans acquire and remember new information, associations and skills with Professor Vivian Ciaramitaro

Understanding Gambling Addiction with Operant Behaviorism


From the Clinical Perspective of Instrumental Learning we have learned about the brain reinforcement system and its key role in our survival instinct. Ex: satisfying primary reinforces such as water, food etc. As previously discussed in class our reinforcement can go awry. Past understanding of the classical conditioning and operant conditioning process could help us understand some of the ways in which the reinforcement system can fail. Ex: drug addiction, which is considered a pathological addiction, maintaining the habit despite its consequences. In contrast in behavioral addiction individuals attain positive and negative reinforcement through behaviors. Gambling was one of the examples used to illustrate this type of addiction. Below there is a link redirected to a research study to understand gambling addiction in relation with operant behaviorism.

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  1. This article about the relationship between risking money in ganbling and Operant behaviors is very interesting to me. The authors description of betting facilities tricks to lure their customers into risking money I can validate to say that it true. I once went to Fox woods and as soon as I walked into a betting facility, the scenery made it so tempting to bet. I can also say that this author’s example with online games also reminds me of myself and the very popular game of Candy Crush. The vibrant colors and passing each challenging level becomes a reinforcement to continue to the proceeding levels. Moreover, reading this article relates to what we have been learning in class. We can see that the three components of Learned Association in instrumental learning (which is very similar to operant learning) play a role in betting. For instance, the stimulus here might be the sounds and the scenery of the facilities, leading to the response and the act of risking money. The consequence component we can assume are the rewards or punishment (the amount of money they win or lose). In conclusion, we learned that people work for secondary sources indefinitely which in case would be money. This article proves that betters will continue to bet as long as they get a reward out of it.

  2. NOTE TO READERS**: Our blog would NOT allow me to post this response because it contained the word [G]ambling. This is the reason for the brackets around the first letter of this word.

    Immediately after reading this, it reminded me of several concepts discussed in class that weren’t explicitly mentioned in the article; First, it reminded me of the dopaminergic pathways described in the “some-what corny” video of the man with the gumball machine in the desert we watched during our last lecture. In the video we learned that dopamine is primarily responsible for our judgement of RELATIVE reward. Even as “rewards, no matter how small, create a pleasure sensation in the brain,” these dopaminergic pathways create an even stronger response when a greater reward is given with a smaller investment, possibly adding to the addictive nature of [g]ambling.

    Secondly, in our lectures we learned of the different reinforcement schedules
    (Continuous reinforcement, fixed interval schedule, etc.). Because a lot of these pay-per-chance games, like slot machines (and even a lot of prize based arcade machines) have a set probability or ratio of wins to losses, the reinforcement schedule may be considered variable ratio. On a macro scale, that is to say if the game were played ad infinitum, the rewards of these non-skill based games would come in a variable ratio schedule. In a variable ratio schedule, the consequence (winning), follows after an AVERAGE number of responses (playing the game). So, for example, in a simplified slot machine with a 1:10,000 win to lose ratio for its jackpot, a player should hypothetically win on average every 10,000 plays.

    Of the four reward arrangements discussed, the variable ratio system is of the most potent effect. This keeps the player feeling as though his next win could be just around the corner, just as a pigeon in a variable ratio experiment would presumably keep pressing a lever because of the unreliable nature of the reward it produced.

    I only came across one very minor bump in this article when the author uses the term “pure operant Pavlovian style.” Operant conditioning and its discovery is predominantly accredited to B F Skinner, while Pavlov is renowned for his work in classical conditioning, an entirely different system of behaviorism.

  3. This article was truly interesting to me because I personally have experienced the feeling of wanting to [gamble] and how addicting it can be. I can say I have gone to the casinos a little more than I should. The first time I went to Foxwoods I had won 200, so for me it was a “big win” (reward) and that’s what kept me coming back (consequence). The feeling of thinking I can win more gave off this feeling of expectation/ suspense. What I noticed about the casinos is that there is no windows or any form of way of seeing what time it is or if the sun has gone down or come up. What you think is an hour can potentially be 3 or 4 hours. I agree with the article on how casinos lure in their consumers, they offer complementary drinks and always send stuff in the mail saying you have 10-15 dollars in free slot play. All of these factor in on how it can be tempting for people who have these feelings of hope and adrenaline rush when it comes to betting.

    Similar to what was stated in a comment above about Candy Crush. Each time your able to make an new level it feels like an achievement as well as satisfaction and that is why some people get addicted to online gaming.

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