Have you ever played a slot machines? In Italy we have 400,000 slot machines into which we feed around 40 billion euros every year. Slot machines are everywhere: in cafés, in tobacconists, in arcades and even online so that we can easily play while walking down the street. There are slot machines for all tastes! Sara is addicted to TV series after “Scrubs” and “Breaking Bad”, her current favorite is “Game of Thrones”.
And of course there is a slot machine inspired by it. Paolo goes to deserted places populated by wild animals every time he has a chance. That’s why a slot machine about the savannah could intrigue him. Diego is calm and gentle but anytime he’s tired or hungry, he becomes quick-tempered and belligerent. He might like the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde slot machine. According to article 110 of the “Unified Code of Public Security”, paragraphs A and B a slot machine player loses 15 cents or 26 cents for every euro played depending on the type of slot machine.
Therefore, the more we play, the more we lose. It’s mathematical, but it’s the law too! Why do so many people play if it is a bad deal? There are some features, created deliberately to keep us stuck to the slot machines.
Let’s see how they work. If a player loses too many times in a row, that player leaves the game. That’s why we must win often, while still losing in the long run. The solution is to let us win frequent small prizes. Psychologists call it “intermittent positive reinforcement” it has the effect to increase players’ will to play.
When we lose, we often get the feeling of having nearly won. This feeling provokes a cognitive frustration which makes us want to place the next bet. With the latest slot machines, there can be as little as 2 seconds between a bet and the following one. The pace is too frenetic to allow our self-control to activate. That makes it easy to lose track of what’s happening. Large bets are allowed the latest slot machines accept 500 euro bills.
In this slot I can bet 50 euros at a time, losing 500 euros could take no time at all. When we spend a lot of time in front of a slot machine we establish a personal relationship with it. That’s called anthropomorphism. It’s the tendency to ascribe human characteristics to inanimate beings. It’s exactly what we do when we speak to our car or to a plant. It’s proven that those who anthropomorphize slot machines play longer, and thus lose more money.
All this has one effect: to keep us stuck in front of the slot machines, the longer we stay the more we lose and when we have lost a lot of money it’s really hard to stop playing.