Tuesday 23 November 2021

What do Pigeons and Gambling Addicts have in Common?

It sounds a strange pairing. 

Two love birds. One playing a FOBT in the betting shop. The other looking through the window, flapping his wings with an air of impulsivity. 

Both hoping for that elusive, big win: money or corn!

Perhaps, it's where the term: ''Do you fancy a flutter'' came from? 

However, joking aside, there is nothing humourous about problem gambling. It has a hugely negative affect on the individual if not their family, friends and society as a whole.

Research from the University of Kentucky found that pigeons and problem gamblers seem to have a trait in common. They both display impulsive behaviour!

This psychological research is important as it details that impulse control could be the answer in finding an approach that helps with this addiction.

Although you may never have thought about it - pigeons love to gamble. 

They consistently pecked a target that would result in a ''big jackpot'' of corn in favour pecking a target that offered 100% wins but less corn. On average the ''big jackpot'' paid out two corn seeds while the guaranteed win paid three. (Not the wisest gamble).

Researchers questioned whether this tendency to gamble was related to impulsivitiy. 

Lead author of the research, doctorate psychology student Jennifer Laude and colleagues, found that more impulsive birds were likely to gamble for the big payout rather than wait 20 seconds. The pigeons behaviour detailed they gave more significance to winning the jackpot than losing. 

This is the same behaviour displayed by addictive or problem gamblers. This relates to an impulse control disorder. In this way pathological gamblers aren't interested in their losses as they focus on the big win. 

This research indicates that impulsivity may make people more prone to gambling. Consequently, training impulsive behaviours may help control problem gambling.   

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