Southern Religion

That anti-poor people lottery feedback loop: Addendum

Some truths do endure. Since 1890, the Southern Baptist Convention has formally expressed its opposition to legalized gambling, and there is experimental evidence that the SBC position is the right and fair one. Jonah Lehrer writes at The Frontal Cortext:

A new study by Emily Haisley, Romel Mostafa and George Loewenstein explored some of the reasons why low-income people spend so much money on a product that only returns fifty three cents on the dollar. (Lotteries are such a bad deal that they make slot machines look good.) Here’s the abstract:

In two experiments conducted with low-income participants, we examine how implicit comparisons with other income classes increase low-income individuals’ desire to play the lottery. In Experiment 1, participants were more likely to purchase lottery tickets when they were primed to perceive that their own income was low relative to an implicit standard. In Experiment 2, participants purchased more tickets when they considered situations in which rich people or poor people receive advantages, implicitly highlighting the fact that everyone has an equal chance of winning the lottery.

The study neatly illuminates the sad positive feedback loop of lotteries. The games naturally appeal to poor people, which causes them to spend disproportionate amounts of their income on lotteries, which helps keep them poor, which keeps them buying tickets.


Henry Chase and Luke Clark of the Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute have data which indicates that near misses also fuel the gambling addiction. NeuroPhilosophy explains that gambling game designers know and take advantage of that to grow their market (foster addiction):

Manufacturers of gambling games have apparently known the rewarding effects of near misses all along, and design slot machines in such a way as to exploit the cognitive distortions of gamblers. Using a technique called clustering, they create a high number of failures that are close to wins, so that what the player sees is a misrepresentation of the probabilities and randomness that the game involves. This affects the perception of the game, making the gambler who nearly hits the jackpot want to continue playing.


May 14, 2010 - Posted by | Law, Science |

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