Gambling on our cognitive biases

The Economist has an excellent special report on gambling that covers everything from what makes slot machines attractive to the psychology of poker.

If you read the lead article there are links to the whole series in a sidebar embedded in the text. However, those particularly interested in the psychology of gambling may want to check out some specific pieces.

A short article looks at how compulsive gambling has become medicalised as it has been changed from a moral failing to a psychiatric problem.

Is poker a game of skill, as enthusiasts claim, or chance, as law defines it? An interesting discussion ensues on experience, success and gambling choices.

A computer system called ‘Polaris’ that claims to be the ‘Deep Blue’ of poker is also helping us understand the science of decision-making and is tackled by a particularly good article.

Another piece looks at the history of lotteries, the worst value gambling that money can buy and also the most popular.

I also liked this story on how slot machine companies sell you a guaranteed long-term loss.

When it comes down to it, over the longer term slot machines keep 5% of your money in return for a light show and a slimmish chance to win. But people keep playing. Slots pit humans against maths, and the maths always win. But successful slot machines get players to “like the feel of the maths”, explains Chris Satchell, chief technology officer for International Game Technology.

There are many more articles that explore wider issues such as economics, law and gambling’s effect on society. A really well-done series, as you’d expect from The Economist.

Link to Economist special report on gambling.

1 thought on “Gambling on our cognitive biases”

  1. Thanks for letting us know about this. I’m not typically a reader of The Economist, but it’s always interesting and/or amusing to see economists wax psychological. Cheers.

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