A study conducted by researchers in Italy discovered the intriguing fact that gamblers tend to spend a lot more money playing on slot machines supposedly equipped with human-like brains instead of regular machines controlled by a computer chip. It is fair to say that the results of the study, which appeared in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, are of great interest to the gambling industry since it points a direction in which the industry can move.
During the study, gamblers were led to believe that certain machines were anthropomorphic. In other words, these machines had the ability to think and therefore, they could choose the outcome of the game. These gamblers were informed that the human-like machines could choose when wins or losses could take place, much in the way that human makes decisions on a whim to favour or hinder someone else. Another set of slot machines, with the exact same interface as the previous one, were stated to be controlled by computer chips that generated results at a pre-determined rate so that wins or losses were fixed beforehand and were likely to happen in series. In both cases, the machines had the same functions; players could choose between playing once more and exiting the game.
The researchers were able to observe that gamblers on average tended to suspend their disbelief and favour the machines that they believed to have human-like brain capacity. In other words, they gambled for longer periods on these machines and not on the ones that they thought were programmed merely by computer chip. Furthermore, since all slot machines are programmed to have a house advantage, it was inevitable that they sustained a lot of losses on the machines because they played longer than they would usually. In short, gamblers were led to gamble for extended periods, incurring heavy losses all the while, only because they thought that the machines were able to think like human beings!
There is no doubt that the results of this study can give one serious cause for concern. The researchers themselves pointed out that slot machine gambling could be very addictive and that gamblers were willing to take immense risks while playing only because they felt that the machine was able to think on its own and respond to them. The researchers also cautioned that gambling machines with anthropomorphic features could upset the psychological balance of gamblers and get them to gamble more money than they could afford.
One could draw plenty of conclusions from the study mentioned here. It is possible that gamblers like to believe that they have better chances of winning if they play against another person and not a machine that uses software to win more often than them! There is also the possibility that people like the sense of companionship that comes from playing against another person rather than a soulless machine. Whatever the reason might be, it will be interesting to see whether the gaming industry opts to make lots of machines with anthropomorphism.