Winning and Positive Affect Can Lead to Reckless Gambling
Experiments 1 and 2 examined whether winning versus losing led to reckless betting for real prize money. Experiment 2 also assessed whether positive or negative emotions were linked to such reckless betting. College students were randomly assigned to experience primarily either wins or losses during the rigged first round of a computerized card tournament that had 2 independent rounds. For the second round, participants' chip totals were reset and cards were dealt randomly. In Experiment 1 (N = 107), participants in the Initial-Winning, as compared with the Initial-Losing, condition bet more recklessly (i.e., bet too many chips when a loss was likely). Experiment 2 (N = 72) again showed that Initial-Winning participants bet significantly more recklessly than did Initial-Losing participants. It also revealed that positive affect was significantly positively correlated with such reckless betting. These findings have implications for understanding how college students, those at an age when they are especially vulnerable to problem gambling, can come to lose more money than they can afford. Initially winning and positive affect when gambling could be risk factors.
The effect of positive feelings on risk taking: When the chips are down
Two studies conducted simultaneously investigated the influence of positive affect on risk taking. Results of the study, which employed an actual measure of subjects' willingness to bet something of value, supported the prediction of an interaction between level of risk and positive affect: subjects who had reason to be feeling elated bet more than control subjects on a low-risk bet, but wagered less than controls on a high-risk bet. At the same time, in contrast, a study involving hypothetical risk-taking showed that in general subjects were more willing to take the chance as probability of success went up; but that elated subjects were more daring than controls on a “long shot.” Differences in hypothetical vs real risk taking were noted, and the complexity (the interaction) of the influence of positive feelings on real risk taking was emphasized. The results were related to other research suggesting an influence of feeling states on cognitive processes and decision making.
Alice M. Isen and Robert Patrick