Gamblers like noisy slot machines
Today’s slot machines average about 400 sound effects. But what may seem like overkill is actually a clever marketing ploy – from a psychological perspective, gamblers prefer these noisy machines, as they reinforce the rewarding feeling of a win. That the conclusion of a new study from the University of Waterloo in Canada, which also found that the sounds associated with winning can cause people to overestimate the number of times they have won while playing the slots. Of particular interest were the “losses disguised as wins,” where people interpreted the lights and sounds with winning, even though players were winning back less than they had wagered (bet $1, win 20 cents, for example).
The researchers set out to study the physiological responses to various slot machine outcomes – wins, losses and losses disguised as wins. The study analyzed 96 gamblers who played two sessions on slot machine simulators. In the first session, wins and losses disguised as wins triggered rolling sounds and jingles, as well as visual feedback. In the second session, the sounds were turned off, and only visual feedback was given. The researchers measured sweat on the skin and heart rate response to the outcomes. They were asked which they preferred, and then to estimate how many times they had won back more than they had wagered.
The results found that skin conductance responses were significantly greater when the sound was on, and that the noisy sessions were more arousing. The majority of players preferred the noisy sessions, as they appeared to enjoy the extra level of excitement. However, players overestimated their wins by 24 percent in the noisy experiment, as opposed to 15 percent in the quiet sessions.