5 Interesting Things That Science Has to Say About Your Gambling Habit

Science has plenty to say about gambling and some of it’s pretty out there. Have fun reading this article!

Today, we’re going to have fun looking at some of the interesting things that scientists have found out about our gambling habits. First, you need to know that I’m not a scientist, and I don’t have a background in science. This means that I can’t review these studies or point out their flaws. The studies are real, but this article is just a bit of fun.

Don’t blindly act on anything you learn here, and absolutely no smuggling geckos. or other reptiles, into your local casinos!

What does science have to say about your gambling habits?

1: You might be better at predicting the future than expert forecasters are.

Does it sound weird to you that some people are paid to predict the future? It does sound like magical thinking, but there are plenty of jobs that involve predicting the future – weather forecasters, market speculators, and political commentators…to name a few.

But scientists have found that gamblers may be better at forecasting the future than the so-called experts are. A study by the University of Cambridge found that gamblers predicted the outcome of the Brexit vote an hour before financial experts in The City did.

This study lends weight to the idea that gamblers (as a collective) could be better predictors of political outcomes than experts and polls.

2: You’re more likely to gamble if you’re jealous of your Facebook friends.

Everyone compares themselves to other people from time-to-time, but when you wallow in that mood, make sure you avoid the online casinos. This is because studies have found that people who compare themselves negatively to other people are more likely to engage in risky behaviours, such as high-risk gambling.

In other words, you’re more likely to run into a gambling problem (e.g., gambling away your rent) if you think you’re not as good as other people. Comparing yourself in that way can lead to anger and resentment. You are then more likely to try to cope with those emotions by distracting yourself with intense, high-risk, behaviours.

Social media is unhelpful here. People curate their social media pages to show themselves in the most flattering light (usually – there are exceptions). If you believe other people’s hype about their idealised life, you’ll always feel inadequate.

And that can make you gamble more. How can beat this negative pattern?

The researchers at the University of East Anglia found that having hope for the future protected against negative feelings and, consequently, problem gambling.

The good news is that having hope for the future can help you. If you believe that your life will get better, it makes you less likely to engage in risk-taking behaviours.

Where do you find hope? I don’t know, but this list of Ted Talks is a great place to start.


3: You’ll feel worse losing money at the casino than losing money on investments.

Investments are a gamble in most cases. You never know for sure if stocks and shares will go up or down in your favour.

But a study in the Journal of Economic Psychology found that people feel worse losing money to gambling than they do losing money to investments.

And it has nothing to do with the act itself – it’s the perception. The same financial loss can make you feel worse if you see the loss as being a result of gambling, rather than seeing the loss as a result of an investment gone wrong.

That doesn’t mean that you’ll feel good if you lose money on investments, only that you won’t feel as bad as you would losing the same money on “gambling”.

4: Are you an adolescent with a gambling problem? Science says it might be because you bumped your noggin.

A study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health at the University of Toronto found that adolescents who have a gambling problem are more likely to have had a traumatic brain injury (TBI) than their non-problem-gambling peers.

TBIs are pretty crazy things. They can lead to all sorts of behaviours. Many people don’t realise how much of an effect they can have. This is why you should always see a doctor when you bump your head, even if it doesn’t feel serious.

5: As long as you’re not in a bad mood, holding a crocodile before gambling will make you gamble more.

Yep, you DID read that correctly. This bit of research actually won the IgNobel prize. Just as it says above, the researchers discovered that if you give someone a crocodile before they gamble, they play more intensely than they would do normally…but only if they’re in a good mood (the person, not the croc).

The science behind this is that holding the crocodile excites the nervous system, and this ramps you up to play more intensely. They found that if you had a pre-existing gambling problem and held a crocodile before gambling, you would place bigger bets if you were in a good mood, but smaller bets if you were in a bad mood.

Basically, if you have a gambling problem don’t go to the casino when you’re in a good mood, and definitely don’t hold a crocodile beforehand! You’ll make silly choices.

An image that says "E=MC2" to represent science. It's written in a blurry font that's white and looks a bit fuzzy, so it's an arty rendering of e = m c squared.