Gamblers like noisy slot machines—it reinforces the rewarding feeling after a win

Winning sounds on slot machines make gambling more exciting, according to a new study by Mike Dixon and colleagues from the University of Waterloo in Canada. Moreover, their work shows that sounds also cause players to overestimate the number of times they won while playing on slot machines. The study is published online in Springer's Journal of Gambling Studies.

Sound has always been an integral part of the slot machine playing experience. Since the early 1900s, players have been rewarded with a ringing bell every time they have a winning combination. Today's slot machines average about 400 sound effects.

Modern slot machines allow players to wager on multiple lines. When they spin and lose, the machine goes quiet. When they spin and win more than their wager, they hear a celebratory song. Interestingly, when they spin and win back less than their wager (bet $1.00 and win back 20 cents) they still hear the celebratory songs despite the fact that overall they lost money on these spins. Dixon and colleagues sought to see if these celebratory sounds could hide the fact that players were losing money on these so-called 'losses disguised as wins.'

Dixon and team measured gamblers' to various slot machine game outcomes – wins, losses and losses disguised as wins – with and without sound during play. During slot machine play, may sweat, which increases skin conductance - a measure of arousal.

A total of 96 gamblers played two sessions on a slot machine simulator. In one session, both wins and 'losses disguised as wins' were accompanied by rolling sounds and celebratory winning jingles, as well as visual feedback. In a second session, the sounds were turned off and players only received visual feedback. The researchers measured the participants' skin conductance and responses to the various outcomes. At the end of play, the were asked which session they preferred and why. They also estimated how many spins they had won back more than they wagered.

Sound influenced the overall levels of arousal of players. Skin conductance responses were significantly greater in the session with sound than in the session without sound. Players also rated the noisy session as more arousing than the quiet session. The majority of players preferred the playing session where wins were accompanied by sounds, which suggests that not only do sounds make playing more exciting, players enjoy this extra level of excitement.

Sounds also contributed to players overestimating their number of wins. While this overestimation occurred both in the quiet and noisy sessions, it was significantly higher in the session with sound – 24 percent versus 15 percent in the session without sound. The authors suggest that sounds may be an integral part of 'the disguise' in disguised as wins, causing players to think that they have won more often during a playtime session than they actually have.

The authors conclude: "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 experience when playing slot machines."

More information: Dixon MJ et al (2013). The Impact of Sound in Modern Multiline Video Slot Machine Play. Journal of Gambling Studies; 10.1007/s10899-013-9391-8

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Gamblers in a spin over frustrating losses

Oct 09, 2012

A new study provides evidence that gamblers interpret near-misses as frustrating losses rather than near-wins. This frustration stimulates the reward systems in the brain to promote continued gambling, according to Mike Dixon ...

High hopes turn poker machine players into problem gamblers

Aug 14, 2007

There are around 300,000 problem gamblers in Australia. For gambling researchers, one of the biggest questions is why so many people seem unable to control their gambling behaviour, despite the harmful impact on their lives.

Recommended for you

Intervention program helps prevent high-school dropouts

Oct 24, 2014

New research findings from a team of prevention scientists at Arizona State University demonstrates that a family-focused intervention program for middle-school Mexican American children leads to fewer drop-out rates and ...

Bilingualism over the lifespan

Oct 24, 2014

It's a scene that plays out every day in Montreal. On the bus, in schools, in the office and at home, conversations weave seamlessly back and forth between French and English, or one of the many other languages represented ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

gwrede
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2013
Well helloooo? Anybody home?

These geniuses could have saved a lot of work just asking the slot machine makers, duh?

Before I got to read this article, there has to have been an UNBROKEN chain of idiots: the one that got the idea to study this, the one that did the study, the one that accepted such a study to defame the university, the one that evaluated such a study, the one that submitted it for publication and global shaming of the university, the journal that is greedy/incompetent/ignorant/malevolent enough to publish it, and finally MEDICAL EXPRESS COM for republishing it.

Shame on you all.

Did it ever occur any of these suckers to wonder why slot machines make such a riot for every cent you "win"??? Probably not. And even more embarrassing would be to admit that it did occur, but they still did not figure out the blatantly obvious. Geez!