Are you playing the machine or is the machine playing you? Without getting into some deep, Matrix-y kind of stuff, there is in fact a brilliant level of psychology going on whenever you play slots. No, the machine is not alive and playing mind games with you. Rather, it’s actually all in your own head (but the software manufacturers know this too). So, what’s going on up there when you’re spinning away and what keeps drawing you back?
Slots are flashy, they’re full of ringing bells, music and other effects that generate excitement and signal big wins. The themes you can find online or at a live casino appeal to our fascination with Hollywood, fantasies, ancient cultures, wealth and mythology. All are rich in symbolism and tell a story which most of us, in some way or another can relate to. They often promise magic, rewards and riches. Age old superstitions, in the form of lucky numbers and animals are tied into many of the machines. With all this who wouldn’t want to give such a slot a spin or two just to be entertained if not to gamble?
These powerful visuals combined with appealing audio hits deep into the subconscious levels of the brain and not only helps to get the player pumped up, but also triggers him or her to associate all of it with positivity, luck and rewards.
Unlike traditional table games, slots take advantage of the basic human psychology; therefore maximizing the overall appeal. Playing poker or blackjack requires knowledge, concentration and skill. Playing slots requires the ability to pull a lever or press a button. There is no decision making and no skill required.
Of course, with slots you can play them exceedingly fast. Whereas, a game of poker can take hours and a single spin of the roulette wheel can take up to 2 minutes. A well rounded slot player can literally spin the reels 10 times per minute! Now, think about playing 2 machines at once and you’ll see you’re really up against non-stop action. People like this.
Slots are 100% non-threatening to play. There are no prying eyes from other players, no peer pressure and no one to judge you for a move you made. Add in the very real possibility of winning money and you’ll immediately see how alluring, even seductive, a slot machine can be.
All of this adds up to a strong neurological response in the brain. Dopamine, the same chemical responsible for cravings of food and sex, is stimulated which activates your neural pathways that are associated with risk, pleasure and rewards. Taking it one step further, psychologists recognize that small rewards mixed in with occasional large ones can keep a player’s attention consumed and wanting more. In the case of slots, the rewards come in the form of bonus plays, scatters, free games, wins and near misses. The near miss has unique psychology behind it because rather than feeling as if they’ve lost, many players see it as completely the opposite. They view it as nearly winning. This in turn furthers positive reinforcement and when small payouts are combined, a powerful subliminal effect takes hold.
This knowledge is valuable not because you should shy away from the alluring, colourful machines that are slots, but rather you should get the most out of each and every dollar you risk while soaking up some payback at the same time. You can do both. So look for the games with enticing payout percentages and bewitching themes.