Cognitive Biases And Gambling Addiction

8 min read

Understanding Cognitive Biases and Their Impact on Gambling Addiction

Gambling has some characteristics that distinguish it from other ludic activities and that are essential to understand how it works. 

  1. It usually consists of a betting activity. That is, if the objectives are met, money is obtained, but if the desired goals are not reached, it is lost.
  2. The result obtained (win or lose) does not depend on the skill of the player, nor on the strategies carried out. 

Despite this, one of the most characteristic problems of gambling addiction is precisely the fact that players express cognitive biases about the probability of obtaining long-term profits with this activity.

What Are Cognitive Biases?

Cognitive bias refers to a systematic (that is, nonrandom and, thus, predictable) deviation from rationality in judgment or decision-making.

How Do Cognitive Biases Act In People With Gambling Addiction?

Due to the presence of cognitive biases, people may think that gambling can be a source of income, with which to meet the cost of living. While gambling, as a consequence of cognitive biases, people can reach irrational conclusions about the probabilities of predicting an activity controlled by chance. Thus, cognitive biases act as developers and maintainers of pathological gambling behavior.

Types Of Cognitive Biases In The Gambling Behavior

There are numerous cognitive distortions related to gambling behavior. Here are some of the most important.

  • Illusion of Control: This belief that the outcome of the game depends more on personal performance than chance. For example, the player would think that pressing the buttons of the slot machines would be controlling the game when in reality it does not depend on it. Also thoughts like "I wouldn't relapse with a coupon, nor with slot machines, I would only relapse with something that makes me feel like I'm not a chimpanzee."
  • Prediction of results: This belief is based on thinking that the result of the game can be predicted. This ability is related to magical thinking. For example: "I could play online in many bookmakers, but I don't trust the software... there are rigging and weird things... I'm not interested. I only trust online poker”.
  • Thinking of Luck as responsible for the results: In this case, it is considered that "luck" is the determining factor of the results of the game. The players and players have the belief that luck will make them win in the game.
  • Post hoc explanations bias: The player tries to explain the reasons why he or she has lost in the game and tries with these explanations to interpret what will happen in the next plays. For example: "I was trying to prove that you could make money with bets but then I lost everything again."
  • Locus of control: This belief is based on the tendency to attribute successes to one's own abilities (for example, "being a good player") and failures to external factors (for example, losing streak). For example: “The first game of poker that I have played I have won, because I have great numerical skills. The second game that I have played I have lost because I was very tired and I have not received good cards”
  •  I almost won: The gambler when he loses speculates on the fact that he has almost won. For example, “In sports betting, the person bets that the result of the match will be 3-2. Finally, the result is 2-2, the person will fantasize that he has been close to obtaining the result and that he has almost won the bet.
  • Superstitious thought: Associate events that are not related. For example, "every time I go to play I wear my green shirt, because green is the color of money and with that shirt I once got the best prize so far".
  • Device personification: Occurs when the device is attributed to human qualities. For example, talking to the device and saying things like "Come on, I know you're smart, be good and win my prize."
  • Fixation on absolute frequencies: This bias is related to the belief that you always win instead of considering the total amount of money invested and the times you have lost.

Tips To Deal With Cognitive Biases

Here are some strategies for dealing with cognitive biases:

Increase Awareness

The first step in dealing with cognitive biases is to be aware of them. By understanding the common biases that can affect decision-making, you can begin to recognize when they are influencing your thoughts and actions.

Seek Multiple Perspectives

To avoid being swayed by confirmation bias, seek out different perspectives and opinions on a given topic.

Use Structured Decision-Making Processes

Formal processes such as decision matrixes and cost-benefit analysis can help to reduce the influence of cognitive biases in decision-making.

Take Time To Think

Avoid making hasty decisions. Take the time to consider all the options and implications before making a decision.

Avoid Emotional Reasoning

Emotions can cloud judgment. Try to separate the facts from the emotions and make decisions based on logical reasoning.

Get A Second Opinion

Consult with others to get a different perspective and to avoid the overconfidence bias.

Reflect On Your Decision

After a decision has been made, take the time to reflect on it and consider whether it was based on rational thinking or was influenced by cognitive biases.

Conclusion

It is important to note that cognitive biases are a natural part of the human mind and it is unrealistic to think that you can completely eliminate them from your decision-making process. But, if you find that cognitive biases are having a significant impact on your life, seek professional help, such as a therapist or counselor. Thus, by being aware of these biases and implementing strategies to mitigate their effects, you can make more informed and rational decisions.

References

Sources
History
Blanco, F.
2017
Irrational beliefs, biases and gambling: exploring the role of animal models in elucidating vulnerabilities for the development of pathological gambling
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25446745/
Tang, C. S. K., & Wu, A.
2012
Gambling-related cognitive biases and pathological gambling among youths, young adults, and mature adults in Chinese societies.
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51111942_Gambling-Related_Cognitive_Biases_and_Pathological_Gambling_Among_Youths_Young_Adults_and_Mature_Adults_in_Chinese_Societies

Meet Our Authors

Paruyr Shahbazyan began his business career in 2000 as a private entrepreneur. Over thirteen years, he developed a deep understanding for business and leadership, laying a solid foundation for his professional journey.

In 2013, Paruyr stepped into the sports and betting industry as the founder and president of Bookmaker Rating. This online mass media platform, which he led until 2020, focused on providing in-depth analysis and insights in sports betting, earning a reputation for its quality content. 

Continuing his innovative approach in 2022, Paruyr co-founded Azuro, a decentralized betting protocol. This venture showcases his dedication to integrating advanced technology in the evolving landscape of sports betting. Through these diverse experiences, Paruyr has continuously influenced and shaped the betting industry, driving new trends and setting high standards.

 ExperienceYear
Engaged in private entrepreneurship2000-2013
Founder and President at Bookmaker Rating, an online platform focused on sports and betting2013-2020
Co-founder at Azuro, a decentralized betting protocol2022

"Innovation in sportsbetting comes from a deep understanding of both technology and the human element of sports." 

- Paruyr Shahbazyan, Founder, RG

 

Principles and Ethics

Paruyr Shahbazyan's core beliefs lie in the power of informed decision-making and integrity in the betting industry. He understands that the foundation of successful betting is not just about odds and predictions, but also about the trust and reliability of the information provided. Paruyr advocates for a betting environment where transparency and knowledge are paramount, ensuring that bettors are well-equipped with accurate data and insights.

Strategic Vision

Paruyr's vision is to revolutionize the sports betting industry through the integration of technology. He sees the future of betting as a blend of traditional sports knowledge with innovative tech solutions, like decentralized protocols, to enhance user experience and fairness. His aim is to create platforms that are not only user-friendly but also uphold the highest standards of ethical betting, contributing to a more responsible and enjoyable betting culture.

Future Perspectives

Looking towards the future, Paruyr envisions a betting landscape that is more inclusive, technologically advanced, and globally connected. He anticipates a significant shift towards more decentralized and transparent betting systems, driven by blockchain technology. Paruyr is committed to being at the forefront of this change, continuously exploring new possibilities and innovations that can redefine what it means to engage in sports betting in a digital world. His focus is on building systems that prioritize user empowerment, fairness, and the global growth of the sports betting community.

 

Sol Fayerman-Hansen
Sol Fayerman-Hansen
Editor-in-Chief

Sol's interest in sports was sparked at a young age, inspired by athletes such as Barry Sanders, Michael Jordan, and Wayne Gretzky. This early fascination evolved into a deep-seated passion, guiding him toward a career in sports journalism in 2007. Over the years, Sol has contributed thousands of articles and reviews to dozens of online platforms, sharing his research, knowledge, and perspectives.

“In the world of sports betting, truth is more valuable than any bonus offer.”

ExperienceYear
Content Manager, OnlineCasinoReports2012-2021
Sports Journalist, Dottraffic2009-2011
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Cristina Varela Galan
Cristina Varela Galan
Problem Gambling Expert

Cristina used to work as a Psychology Assistant in the Bizkaia Pathological and Risky Gamblers Association. She was also part of a research team in Deusto University, specializing in pathological gambling area. While working there, she managed to develop her own project 

 “Exploring the association between emotional regulation, alexithymia, stressful life events and gambling in adolescent and young adult women”.

Nick Ashbourne
Nick Ashbourne
Senior Writer

Nick has been fascinated with sports since he was first taken to a Toronto Maple Leafs game back in 1998, and he's written about them professionally since 2014.

Nick has covered baseball and hockey for outlets like The Athletic, Sportsnet, and Yahoo Sports, and his sports betting expertise has grown since its legalization in Ontario in 2022. 

Between 2022 and 2023 he worked for a betting startup called NorthStar Bets, and in 2024 he contributed to Oddspedia before joining the Responsible Gambling team.

Anna Kravtcova
Anna Kravtcova
Problem Gambling Expert

Ph.D. in organizational psychology, an internationally certified psychologist (EuroPsy 2022, Cognitive behavioural therapy of mindfulness 2020, International Society for Emotional Intelligence 2017, Russian Psychological society 2014, American Psychological Association(Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychologist) 2011), speaker of many international conferences (USA, Brazil, Portugal, Czech Republic, Russia, etc.). TEDx speaker.

Mike made the decision to dive headfirst into the booming world of sports betting fresh out of college. Back in the day, when 1-800 pick lines and sports pagers were all the rage, he couldn't resist the allure, having grown up idolizing sports legends like Sweetness, MJ, and Slammin Sammy. Mike dedicated his early years to the industry, tirelessly analyzing games, writing articles with free picks, and selling his expertise on reputable handicapping sites. Unlike many others, Mike was known for his integrity and only released one Game of the Year per sport, per season. His hard work and unwavering commitment paid off, earning him a devoted following and propelling his career to new heights. Then came the explosion of Daily Fantasy Sports. Believe it or not, companies like DraftKings and FanDuel used to pay Mike's company to increase their brand exposure. Now, those same industry giants don't even bother responding to his emails. While Mike appreciates the convenience of being able to place legal bets in his own backyard, he can't help but feel disheartened by what has become of the industry. People are being led astray, falsely believing that a mere $5 wager on a 20-team same-game-parlay will be their ticket to financial security. If there’s one thing Mike learned from making book back in the day, it’s that parlays are a bookie’s best friend. A bankroll is the only leg you have to stand on in the battle with the books, and Mike’s here to offer up advice on how to protect it.

Mark Medina
Mark Medina
NBA Reporter

Mark Medina is a longtime NBA reporter that includes stints as a Lakers blogger with The Los Angeles Times (2010-12), Lakers beat writer with the Los Angeles Daily News (2012-17), Warriors beat writer with Bay Area News Group (2017-19) as well as an NBA reporter/columnist for USA Today (2019-21) and NBA.com (2021-23). Medina is also an NBA insider with Fox Sports Radio and frequent contributor to CBSLA's SportsCentralLA with Jim Hill and with Spectrum Sportsnet.

Daria Tuboltseva
Daria Tuboltseva
Hockey Journalist

Daria went to St. Petersburg State University and earned a bachelor of international journalism. Working as a sports journalist from 2014, from 2016 as a hockey journalist. Covered 5 World Championships, 2022 Winter Olympics, 2020 World Juniors, 6 Gagarin Cup Finals. 

Owner of a telegram channel Coolest Game on Earth.

Integrative nutritionist specializing on sports nutritionology.