Near- Miss Paradox

Published Saturday, February 21, 2009 -

Dr. Luke Clark, from the Department of Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge recently conducted some research that is bound to give anyone who has played and almost won to pause for thought.

The tests were carried out with volunteers who played a simplified slot machine while hooked up to an M.R.I. brain scanner. Online Gambling in the laboratory. In a second experiment performed outside the scanner, volunteers rated the near-miss events as unpleasant but simultaneously rated their desire to continue the game as higher after a near-miss. Dr.Clark calls this response a real paradox.

Dr. Clark, said: "Gamblers often interpret near-misses as special events, which encourage them to continue to gamble. Our findings show that the brain responds to near-misses as if a win has been delivered, even though the result is technically a loss.

"On games where there is some skill involved, like target practice, it makes sense to pay attention to near-misses. However, on gambling games where the wins are random, like slot machines or roulette, near-misses do not signal your future success. Importantly, our volunteers in this study were not regular or problem gamblers, and so these findings suggest that the brain may naturally respond to near-misses in this way."

Interestingly it is also pointed out that there is no near miss response if the player is not given a choice of icon such as bell or cherries or bananas at the beginning of the game. The perception that you have control over the random game is sent up then. Researchers were not that surprised by the findings saying that the idea of reward and excitement is a given. The responses where in brain areas that are known to process natural rewards like chocolate. Dr. Clark spoke on recent CBC radio show was saying that even though we may be allowed to play our fovourite numbers on the lottery, it has no effect on the outcome what so ever.

This continuing research into the part of the brain called the striatum and insula cortex by Cambridge in the U.K. and other venerable universities, will possibly be able to help people with all sorts of perception problems.

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