Study could link gambling to behavioral learning

A Cyprus University student began a study last month that could show that gambling addiction isn't necessarily about money, but instead is linked to behaviorism. The research could lead to a better understating of the cognitive origins of gambling addictions.

"The idea for the study actually came to me after playing a play-money poker game. I felt that like gamblers, I too had a drive to continue on playing the game even though no money was involved," said Gregory Horns, who is conducting the study as part of his master's thesis. "The current study tries to prove that gambling addictions don't necessarily have to do with the drive to win money, and this is shown through the link to behaviorism."

Real cash rewards have been considered an essential aspect of gambling addictions in previous studies. Horns' theory is instead based on a linkage between the play action and the reward of winning the game. He believes that the addictive behaviors are just habits accumulated over time.

Horns' theory is based on behaviorism theory developed by Ivan Pavlov. Pavlov is famous for his experiment where he rang a bell every time he gave a dog food. Eventually the dog would salivate at the sound of a bell regardless of whether food was present. In that same respect, Horns believes that even if you take the real-money play out of the equation, people will still play because they've developed an association between play action and the reward of winning.

The results of Horns' study could have a major affect on how gambling addiction is viewed and online gambling sites could use it to defend against claims that their games are addictive.

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