Ringing Bells More Rewarding For Slot Machine Gamblers
July 8, 2013

Ringing Bells More Rewarding For Slot Machine Gamblers

Alan McStravick for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

As one walks through a casino, the assault on the senses brought on by the winning sounds of  slot machines makes gambling more exciting. This fact was made evident thanks to a new study by researchers out of the University of Waterloo in Canada. The team also determined celebratory sounds caused individual players to overestimate the number of times they had enjoyed a winning pull on a slot machine.

Dr. Michael Dixon and colleagues have published their findings in the most recent edition of Springer's Journal of Gambling Studies.

All one need do is look back to the genesis of game playing dating back to the early 1900s. Those who enjoyed a winning combination have been rewarded with a ringing bell. Those who pull on the one-armed bandit today find a slot machine averages approximately 400 sound effects.

Unlike machines in days gone by, the modern slot machine allows players to wager on multiple lines. A losing pull causes the machine to go quiet. However, when a pull ends up in a win the player is presented with a series of sounds that represent a celebration. But what the team was most interested in was the fact that when a win garnered less value than what was bet, the celebratory cacophony continued despite the fact the winnings were less than the initial bet. What the team wanted to discover was whether these bells and whistles might actually hide the fact the gambler was losing money on these so-called 'losses disguised as wins.'

To do this, Dixon and his team opted to measure an individual gambler's physiological responses to various slot machine game outcomes. This included wins, losses and losses disguised as wins. They manipulated the machines to operate both with and without sound during play. Most interestingly, the team found that during slot machine play, gamblers' palms often sweat. This sweating connotes skin conductance, which is a measure of arousal.

Dixon and colleagues enlisted 96 gamblers to play two sessions on a slot machine simulator. The first session found wins and 'losses disguised as wins' were signaled by rolling sounds and celebratory winning jingles along with visual feedback. The second session, however, found all sounds turned off. The gamblers were only provided with visual feedback.

In both sessions, the team measured the skin conductance of each of the participants along with the heart rate responses based on the individual outcomes. Once the sessions were completed, the team queried the subjects on which of the sessions they preferred and why. The team also determined an estimate of how many spins each subject had performed to win back more than they had wagered.

When each of the sessions was completed, the team determined sound was instrumental in influencing the overall levels of arousal of their subjects. The subjects' skin conductance responses were significantly greater in the session that included sound than the session that had no sound. Additionally, subjects of the study reported they found the noisy session more arousing than the session that had no sound. In fact, the majority of the study subjects reported a preference for the playing session that had sounds accompanying wins. The team contends this suggests that not only do sounds make playing more exciting, but that each of the players enjoyed the extra level of excitement brought on by the celebratory sounds of the slot machine.

Perhaps most interestingly, the sounds emitted by the machines led to the subjects overestimating their number of wins. Overestimation was noted in both sessions, but it was noted as being significantly higher during the sound session. According to Dixon's team, this shows sounds may be an integral part of 'the disguise' in losses disguised as wins. With sounds from the machine, players are led to think they have won more often during play than they actually have.

According to Dixon and colleagues, "Although sounds may have contributed to players' enjoyment of the game, sound may also lead to an overestimation of winning. Both of these effects may contribute to gambling problems, such as misbeliefs about the true chances of winning, and persistence that some players experience when playing slot machines."