The Effects of Alcohol, Gender, and Sensation Seeking on the Gambling Choices of Social Drinkers

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The preference-reversal, or the reflection, effect occurs when the valence of the decision option influences risk preference (A. Tversky & D. Kahneman, 1981). The present study examined 3 possible moderators of gambling choices—alcohol, gender, and sensation seeking—among 108 healthy male and female volunteers. After receiving a moderate dose of alcohol, a placebo, or a no-alcohol control beverage, participants completed a betting task in which they could risk a monetary bonus by selecting and playing out a potential gain and a potential loss. Results indicated a preference-reversal effect among high sensation seekers only. The finding that individual differences moderated gambling choices is more consistent with L. L. Lopes's (1987) security-potential/aspiration (SP/A) theory of decision making than with prospect theory. As in previous experimental studies, no significant effects were found for a moderate dose of alcohol. Using SP/A and risk homeostasis theory, the methodological and conceptual reasons for a consistent lack of an effect of alcohol on gambling choices across several studies are discussed.

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