Project Abstract (2017)

Gambling is a rapidly growing industry, with yearly profits upwards of $182 billion. Such a monumental figure is the culmination of individual consumers’ gambling habits. To entice gamblers to increase betting by engaging in riskier behavior, casinos exploit people’s innate suggestibility. The three main tactics which have been shown to increase risky betting behavior are time pressure, when gamblers are given limited time; near-misses, when gamblers begin to gain confidence in their skills; and priming, when subconscious signals influence gamblers. Current research is limited in that it considers each effect in isolation; therefore, it is unknown which of these influences has the strongest impact on eliciting risky behavior. Blackjack provides a poignant context for examining these effects since players have to make either risky or risk-averse choices when faced with ambiguous hands. Thus, this research aimed to determine which effect was the strongest influencer of adult Blackjack behavior. To measure the influence of each effect, an experiment separated participants into four groups: control, time-pressure, near-miss, and priming. First, participants were given a survey to measure riskiness, to ensure that the results could not be attributed to one group’s proclivity toward risky behavior. Thereafter, participants were given an ambiguous hand directly after being exposed to the effect, and their betting behavior was observed. Results were compared across the groups to identify trends in increased riskiness as correlated with a particular effect. This research can provide insight into the causes of risk-taking, ultimately expanding the knowledge of behavioral psychology.

Jacking Up Gambling Behavior: An Exploration of Behavioral Influences on Blackjack Players