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Strategic and non-strategic problem gamblers differ on decision-making under risk and ambiguity

03 Mar 2014


To analyse problem gamblers' decision-making under conditions of risk and ambiguity, investigate underlying psychological factors associated with their choice behaviour and examine whether decision-making differed in strategic (e.g. sports betting) and non-strategic (e.g. electronic gaming machine) problem gamblers.


Cross-sectional study.


Out-patient treatment centres and university testing facilities in Victoria, Australia.


Thirty-nine problem gamblers and 41 age, gender and estimated IQ-matched controls.


Decision-making tasks included the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) and a loss aversion task. The Prospect Valence Learning (PVL) model was used to provide an explanation of cognitive, motivational and response style factors involved in IGT performance.


Overall, problem gamblers performed more poorly than controls on both the IGT (P = 0.04) and the loss aversion task (P = 0.01), and their IGT decisions were associated with heightened attention to gains (P = 0.003) and less consistency (P = 0.002). Strategic problem gamblers did not differ from matched controls on either decision-making task, but non-strategic problem gamblers performed worse on both the IGT (P = 0.006) and the loss aversion task (P = 0.02). Furthermore, we found differences in the PVL model parameters underlying strategic and non-strategic problem gamblers' choices on the IGT.


Problem gamblers demonstrated poor decision-making under conditions of risk and ambiguity. Strategic (e.g. sports betting, poker) and non-strategic (e.g. electronic gaming machines) problem gamblers differed in decision-making and the underlying psychological processes associated with their decisions.

3 March 2014

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