Billieux et al. (2015) propose that the recent proliferation of behavioral addictions has been driven by deficiencies in the underlying research strategy. This commentary considers how pathological gambling (now termed gambling disorder) traversed these challenges to become the first recognized behavioral addiction in the DSM-5. Ironically, many similar issues continue to exist in research on gambling disorder, including question-marks over the validity of tolerance, heterogeneity in gambling motives, and the under-specification of neuroimaging biomarkers. Nevertheless, I contend that the case for gambling disorder as a behavioral addiction has been bolstered by the existence of clear and consistent functional impairment (primarily in the form of debt), coupled with the development of a public health approach that has given emphasis to product features (i.e. the structural characteristics of gambling forms) as much as individual dispositions (the ‘addictive personality’).
Schizotypal personality (schizotypy) is a cluster of traits in the general population, including alterations in belief formation that may underpin delusional thinking. The psychological processes described by schizotypy could also fuel cognitive distortions in the context of gambling. This study sought to characterize the relationships between schizotypy, gambling-related cognitive distortions, and levels of problem gambling.
Analyses were conducted on three groups, a student sample (n = 104) with minimal self-reported gambling involvement, a crowdsourced sample of regular gamblers (via MTurk; n = 277), and an additional crowdsourced sample with a range of gambling involvement (via MTurk; n = 144). Primary measures included the Schizotypal Personality Questionnaire – Brief (SPQ-B), the Peters et al. Delusions Inventory (PDI-21), the Gambling Related Cognitions Scale (GRCS), and the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Luck was measured with either the Belief in Good Luck Scale (BIGLS) or the Beliefs Around Luck Scale (BALS).
Small-to-moderate associations were detected between the components of schizotypy, including delusion proneness, and the gambling-related variables. Schizotypy was associated with the general belief in luck and bad luck, but not beliefs in good luck. A series of partial correlations demonstrated that when the GRCS was controlled for, the relationship between schizotypy and problem gambling was attenuated.
This study demonstrates that schizotypy is a small-to-moderate correlate of erroneous gambling beliefs and PG. These data help characterize clinical comorbidities between the schizotypal spectrum and problem gambling, and point to shared biases relating to belief formation and decision-making under chance.
Problem gambling occurs at higher levels in the homeless than the general population. Past work has not established the extent to which problem gambling is a cause or consequence of homelessness. This study sought to replicate recent observations of elevated rates of problem gambling in a British homeless sample, and extend that finding by characterizing (a) the temporal sequencing of the effect, (b) relationships with drug and alcohol misuse, and (c) awareness and access of treatment services for gambling by the homeless.
We recruited 72 participants from homeless centers in Westminster, London, and used the Problem Gambling Severity Index to assess gambling involvement, as well as DSM-IV criteria for substance and alcohol use disorders. A life-events scale was administered to establish the temporal ordering of problem gambling and homelessness.
Problem gambling was evident in 23.6% of the sample. In participants who endorsed any gambling symptomatology, the majority were categorized as problem gamblers. Within those problem gamblers, 82.4% indicated that gambling preceded their homelessness. Participants displayed high rates of substance (31.9%) and alcohol dependence (23.6%); these were not correlated with PGSI scores. Awareness of treatment for gambling was significantly lower than for substance and alcohol use disorders, and actual access of gambling support was minimal.
Discussion and conclusions
Problem gambling is an under-recognized health issue in the homeless. Our observation that gambling typically precedes homelessness strengthens its role as a causal factor. Despite the elevated prevalence rates, awareness and utilization of gambling support opportunities were low compared with services for substance use disorders.
Precommitment refers to the ability to prospectively restrict the access to temptations. This study examined whether risk-taking during gambling is decreased when an individual has the opportunity to precommit to his forthcoming bet.
Sixty individuals participated in a gambling task that consisted of direct choice (simply chose one monetary option among four available ones, ranging from low-risk to high-risk options) or precommitment trials (before choosing an amount, participants had the opportunity to make a binding choice that made high-risk options unavailable).
We found that participants utilized the precommitment option, such that risk-taking was decreased on precommitment trials compared to direct choices. Within the precommitment trials, there was no significant difference in risk-taking following decisions to restrict versus non-restrict.
These findings suggest that the opportunity to precommit may be sufficient to reduce the attractiveness of risk.
Present results might be exploited to create interventions aiming at enhancing one’s ability to anticipate self-control failures while gambling.
Individuals with gambling disorder display increased levels of risk-taking, but it is not known if it is associated with an altered subjective valuation of gains and/or losses, perception of their probabilities, or integration of these sources of information into expected value.
Participants with gambling disorder (n = 48) were compared with a healthy comparison group (n = 35) on a two-choice lottery task that involved either gains-only or losses-only gambles. On each trial, two lotteries were displayed, showing the associated probability and magnitude of the possible outcome for each. On each trial, participants chose one of the two lotteries, and the outcome was revealed.
Choice behaviour was highly sensitive to the expected value of the two gambles in both the gain and loss domains. This sensitivity to expected value was attenuated in the group with gambling disorder. The group with gambling disorder used both probability and magnitude information less, and this impairment was greater for probability information. By contrast, they used prior feedback (win vs loss) to inform their next choice, despite the independence of each trial. Within the gambling disorder group, problem gambling severity and trait gambling-related cognitions independently predicted reduced sensitivity to expected value. The majority of observed effects were consistent across both gain and loss domains.
Discussion and Conclusions
Our results provide a thorough characterization of decision processes in gain and loss domains in gambling disorder, and place these problems in the context of theoretical constructs from behavioural economics.
The Conceptual Framework of Harmful Gambling moves beyond a symptoms-based view of harm and addresses a broad set of factors related to the risks and effects of gambling harmfully at the individual, family, and community levels. Coauthored by international research experts and informed by multiple stakeholders, Gambling Research Exchange (GREO) facilitated the framework development in 2013 and retains responsibility for regular updates and mobilization. This review article presents information about the revised version of the Conceptual Framework of Harmful Gambling completed in late 2018.
We describe eight interrelated factors depicted in the framework that represent major themes in gambling ranging from the specific (gambling environment, exposure, gambling types, and treatment resources) to the general (cultural, social, psychological, and biological influences). After outlining the framework development and collaborative process, we highlight new topics for the recent update that reflect changes in the gambling landscape and prominent discourses in the scientific community. Some of these topics include social and economic impacts of gambling, and a new model of understanding gambling related harm.
Discussion and conclusions
We address the relevance of the CFHG to the gambling and behavioral addictions research community. Harm-based frameworks have been undertaken in other areas of addiction that can both inform and be informed by a model dedicated to harmful gambling. Further, the framework brings a multi-disciplinary perspective to bear on antecedents and factors that co-occur with harmful gambling.
Open science refers to a set of practices that aim to make scientific research more transparent, accessible, and reproducible, including pre-registration of study protocols, sharing of data and materials, the use of transparent research methods, and open access publishing. In this commentary, we describe and evaluate the current state of open science practices in behavioral addiction research. We highlight the specific value of open science practices for the field; discuss recent field-specific meta-scientific reviews that show the adoption of such practices remains in its infancy; address the challenges to engaging with open science; and make recommendations for how researchers, journals, and scientific institutions can work to overcome these challenges and promote high-quality, transparently reported behavioral addiction research. By collaboratively promoting open science practices, the field can create a more sustainable and productive research environment that benefits both the scientific community and society as a whole.