Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The Crocodile and the One-Armed Bandit

Credit: auremar

People who bet the maximum line and bet size on commercial poker machines in Australia lose $1400 per hour on average. Credit: auremar

By Matthew Rockloff & Nancy Greer

Researchers have introduced crocodiles to test how excitement influences gambling behaviour on poker machines.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Have you ever wondered how crocodiles affect your willingness to gamble? It seems like an unlikely question and an equally unlikely proposition. However, most people could easily accept that gambling is an exciting experience. Indeed, the experience of excitement is one of the principal attractions of gambling. Equally, contact with an ancient and dangerous predator could invoke excitement.

Researchers have spent some time documenting the excitement of gambling, which includes measurable aspects of physiological arousal such as increases in skin conductance. When people are physiologically aroused there are small changes in perspiration on the surface of their skin. Using a finger sensor, these changes can be measured since perspiration has salts that make it a good conductor of electricity.

While is seems somewhat obvious that gambling causes excitement in the form of physiological arousal, it is less obvious how such arousal might, in turn, affect people’s gambling choices. The source of arousal could be positive through the anticipation of winning, or negative through a concern about losing.

There is also a more fundamental problem of measurement. People find gambling exciting, and this excitement influences subsequent gambling. However, we are faced with a chicken-and-egg problem: how can we tell what we are measuring? People are already gambling...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.