Compulsive gambling is marked by poor impulse control. Where a non-gambler fears to tread, the compulsive gambler may rush in. Bet on the Mets to sweep a doubleheader against the Phillies with two kids brought up from AA pitching against Halliday and Lee? Seems like a great idea!
Now a study of British gamblers finds that the ones who were the most impulsive were also way more likely to reason incorrectly. For example, they put more stock in superstition, like rituals or carrying a lucky coin. Or they’ll believe more fervently that they got a slot machine that had simply gone cold, offering them no chance to win. Thereby discounting the actual laws of probability that govern their alleged luck.
The study looked at 30 compulsive gamblers who sought treatment at England’s National Problem Gambling Clinic. It was published in the journal Psychological Medicine. [Rosanna Michalczuk et al., "Impulsivity and Cognitive Distortions in Pathological Gamblers Attending the U.K. National Problem Gambling Clinic: a preliminary report"]
Thirty non-gamblers served as the control group. An interesting point to consider is that the gamblers in the study were aware enough to know that they had a problem in need of treatment. Other compulsive bettors may be even less rational.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]