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


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