The Use of Messages in Altering Risky Gambling Behavior in Experienced Gamblers

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The present study was an experimental analogue that examined the relationship between gambling-related irrational beliefs and risky gambling behavior. Eighty high-frequency gamblers were randomly assigned to four conditions and played a chance-based computer game in a laboratory setting. Depending on the condition, during the game a pop-up screen repeatedly displayed either accurate or inaccurate messages concerning the game, neutral messages, or no messages. Consistent with a cognitive–behavioral model of gambling, accurate messages that correctly described the random contingencies governing the game decreased risky gambling behavior. Contrary to predictions, inaccurate messages designed to mimic gamblers' irrational beliefs about their abilities to influence chance events did not lead to more risky gambling behavior than exposure to neutral or no messages. Participants in the latter three conditions did not differ significantly from one another and all showed riskier gambling behavior than participants in the accurate message condition. The results suggest that harm minimization strategies that help individuals maintain a rational perspective while gambling may protect them from unreasonable risk-taking.

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