The Psychology of Slots: What’s Driving the Thrill?

Slot Games

The United States Supreme Court recently legalized sports gambling, paving the way for a multi-billion-dollar industry.

But, it’s no secret that gambling has a habit of reeling people in and making them borderline obsessed with winning. This is especially true with slot games.

Want to learn more about the psychology behind it? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about slot games and how they affect your brain.

The Element of Uncertainty

There’s something about an uncertain outcome that’s captivating to human beings. That is, after all, why televised game shows have been so successful.

Whether it has to do with the probability of winning, the potential winnings, or uncontrollable factors that influence the outcome, the effect is the same—people love to watch and engage in situations like these.

And, there’s science behind it to tell us why.

When you complete a task or accomplish a feat (such as scoring a goal in a sport), your brain releases a chemical called dopamine that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

Research has found that your brain also releases dopamine during scenarios with uncertain outcomes that offer a potential reward.

Since you’re anticipating a favorable outcome, you often feel a rush of energy and excitement. The complexity of the game also plays little role in this feeling.

For example, something as simple as rolling a pair of dice could release a significant amount of dopamine if the stakes (and reward) were high enough. So, it’s easy to see why playing a slot machine can be so thrilling to gamblers.

The High of Winning—Even When You’ve Been Losing

Anyone who’s played a slot machine before knows that the odds aren’t exactly in the gambler’s favor. Since the potential payout is so high, however, playing the game is justified.

Since there’s already plenty of enjoyment to be had in taking your chances, the feeling of winning produces even greater enjoyment. Interestingly, though, this feeling occurs even if you’ve been consistently losing at the slots.

This is especially true with slot machines that have a more modern design.

In the past, slot machines were limited to three reels that were spun after the player pulled the lever. Today, many slots offer bonuses, multipliers, wager options, etc. so that the player has a bit more influence over their potential reward.

For example, a modern slot machine may have a special icon that gives the player an extra turn if three are aligned. On this extra turn, any payout they would normally receive is multiplied by 10, leading to potentially life-changing winnings.

There are plenty of variations of this scenario, but they all serve to keep the player in the chair and spinning the reels. As you can expect, the ‘high’ the player experiences from winning a large amount from a bonus spin is astronomically greater than a typical win.

This can also lead players to try to…

Recover Your Losses

This is one of the most significant contributing factors to why people are so enthralled by slot machines.

Let’s take a look at a typical scenario.

David decides to spend a Saturday evening at the casino with a few of his friends. He walks in with $200 that he’s willing to lose. As the night goes on, David ends up withdrawing another $100 after losing his first $200. He then loses this $100 shortly after.

Even though he’s already lost $300 in total, he withdraws another $100 in hopes that he’ll win enough money to break even. To his surprise, he hits a $500 jackpot and comes out on top.

While the person in this scenario happened to succeed in recovering their losses, not everyone does.

But, the thought of being able to do so by putting in just a bit more money is enough to keep most people going. This is especially true on slot machines that offer large bonuses, multipliers, etc.

The Atmosphere

Anyone who’s set foot in a casino knows that there are plenty of sounds, flashing lights, and colors anywhere that you go. Unbeknownst to many, this is a strong factor regarding why people play the slots for so long.

Jingles that play when you win, colors that flash when you pull the machine’s arm, and even the sounds of the nearby machines can all cause a spike in the player’s excitement. 

The atmosphere of the casino makes it hard to walk away from the game because it makes it so easy to play the game. The mental stimulation that results from spinning the reels can leave you sitting in that chair hours after you said you’d go home.

This, combined with the possibility of winning a substantial amount of money, often results in the gambler getting a sort of tunnel vision while they play. If the player is trying to recoup lost money, this effect is even stronger.

So, Is Any of This Bad?

Inherently, no.

While it’s true that slot machines are designed to keep the player as engaged as possible, proper discipline will go a long way in ensuring you don’t walk out with an empty wallet.

Besides, without all of the above factors, slots probably wouldn’t be that much fun to play!

Understanding Slot Games Can Seem Difficult

But it doesn’t have to be.

With the above information about slot games in mind, you’ll comprehend the psychology behind them and why they make people feel the way they do.

Want to learn more about casinos and the unspoken rules you should follow? This article has plenty of useful info.

BONUS READ: How to Maximize your Slot Payouts

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