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Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Mike J. Dixon
,
Jeffrey Gutierrez
,
Chanel J. Larche
,
Madison Stange
,
Candice Graydon
,
Tyler B. Kruger
, and
Stephen D. Smith

Background and aims

Slot machines are a very popular form of gambling. In this study, we look at two different routes to enjoying slots play. One route involves the degree to which players react to rewards. The other route involves what we call dark flow – a pleasurable, but maladaptive state where players become completely engrossed in slots play, providing an escape from the depressing thoughts that characterize their everyday lives.

Methods

One hundred and twenty-nine high-frequency slots players were tested on slot-machine simulators set up in the lobby of a casino. We measured reward reactivity using post-reinforcement pauses (PRPs) and the force with which players pressed the spin button following different slot-machine outcomes. For each player, we calculated the slopes of PRPs and force as a function of credit gains. We also assessed players’ slots game enjoyment and their experience of dark flow, depression, and problem gambling.

Results

Both the PRP and the force measures of reward reactivity were significantly correlated with players’ enjoyment of the slots session, but neither measure was correlated with either problem gambling or depression. Ratings of dark flow were strongly correlated with slots enjoyment (which accounted for far more positive affect variance than the reward reactivity measures) and were correlated with both problem gambling scores and depression.

Discussion and conclusions

Our results suggest that of these two routes to enjoying slot-machine play, the dark flow route is especially problematic. We contend that the dark flow state may be enjoyable because it provides escape from the negative thoughts linked to depression.

Open access
Journal of Behavioral Addictions
Authors:
Tyler B. Kruger
,
Mike J. Dixon
,
Candice Graydon
,
Madison Stange
,
Chanel J. Larche
,
Stephen D. Smith
, and
Daniel Smilek

Abstract

Background and aims: Slot machines are a pervasive form of gambling in North America. Some gamblers describe entering “the slot machine zone”—a complete immersion into slots play to the exclusion of all else. Methods: We assessed 111 gamblers for mindfulness (using the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale (MAAS)), gambling problems (using the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI)), depressive symptoms (using the Depression, Anxiety, and Stress Scale), and boredom proneness (using the Boredom Proneness Scale). In a counterbalanced order, participants played a slot machine simulator and completed an auditory vigilance task. During each task, participants were interrupted with thought probes to assess whether they were: on-task, spontaneously mind-wandering, or deliberately mind-wandering. After completing each task, we retrospectively assessed flow and affect. Compared to the more exciting slots play, we propose that gamblers may use deliberate mind-wandering as a maladaptive means to regulate affect during a repetitive vigilance task. Results: Our key results were that gamblers reported greater negative affect following the vigilance task (when compared to slots) and greater positive affect following slots play (when compared to the vigilance task). We also found that those who scored higher in problem gambling were more likely to use deliberate mind-wandering as a means to cope with negative affect during the vigilance task. Using hierarchical multiple regression, we found that the number of “deliberately mind-wandering” responses accounted for unique variance when predicting problem gambling severity (over and above depression, mindfulness, and boredom proneness). Conclusions: These assessments highlight a potential coping mechanism used by problem gamblers in order to deal with negative affect.

Open access