When reminded, or primed, of past winning outcomes as part of a controlled test, people were over 15 percent more likely to gamble and select the risky option, the findings showed."Our memories play a very significant role when making certain decisions," said Elliot Ludvig, from the University of Warwick in Britain.

Subtle cues about winning outcomes are continuously apparent in casinos, from the whirring of slot machines to the millions of dollars of cash placed on the table for the final showdown in some poker tournaments, Ludvig noted.

"Our results confirm how these cues are apt to make people gamble more, by serving as reminders for those times that people have won money in the past," Ludvig pointed out.

The researchers tested their hypothesis by manipulating, or priming, the memory of participants for past outcomes in a simple risky choice task.The participants were repeatedly presented with the choice of selecting one of two doors as part of a computer test.

The doors were selected from four coloured doors in the experiment. Three of the doors always led to guaranteed outcomes (0, 40, or 80 points), and the fourth, the risky door, led to a 50/50 chance of 20 or 60 points.

When the participants were reminded of a past winning or losing outcome, they were more likely to choose the risky door.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.

 

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