Slots players gamble more when they think there’s a human inside the machine

anthropomorphic-slot-machineA new study has found that gamblers who perceive humanlike qualities in slot machines tend to gamble – and lose – more money.

A study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology examined the theory that people gamble more on slot machines when they believe they’re playing against humanlike minds rather than mechanical algorithms. The title of the study – Humanizing Machines: Anthropomorphization of Slot Machines Increases Gambling – indicates the Italian researchers ultimately concluded that their theory was correct.

The researchers conducted four separate tests in which participants were asked to play a simple slots interface with only two options: spin again or stop playing. The control group was told in advance that the machine operated via a mathematical algorithm programmed to deliver a certain percentage of wins and losses over time.

Another group of subjects was told that the machine had a humanlike brain and had the power to decide whether or not a particular spin would come up a winner. The subjects were told that this humanlike entity – which they gave a feminine character – “may choose to make fun of you, leaving you empty-handed for several bets; other times, she might want to reward you with a win.”

Predictably, those who were primed to view the machine as human elected to play longer than the control group. Combined with the traditional built-in house edge, this group also lost more money than the control group. The researchers also noted that “high-arousal positive emotions (e.g., feeling excited) played a role in the effect of anthropomorphism on gambling behavior.”

The researchers appeared conflicted by their findings, remarking that while the casino industry would likely use this info to develop ways of making their machines more human, actual humans were likely to lose more money playing slots.

Which brings us to Aristocrat Technologies’ new Britney Spears video slot machine, which is at least as anthropomorphic as that lip-synching soccer mom lazily shuffling across the stage of Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas four nights a week. But remember, players… She’s not actually a Slave 4 U and she just might be Toxic.