Suboptimal foraging behavior: a new perspective on gambling.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Why do people gamble? Conventional views hold that gambling may be motivated by irrational beliefs, risk-seeking, impulsive temperament, or dysfunction within the same reward circuitry affected by drugs of abuse. An alternate, unexplored perspective is that gambling is an extension of natural foraging behavior to a financial environment. However, when these foraging algorithms are applied to stochastic gambling outcomes, undesirable results may occur. To test this hypothesis, we recruited participants based on their frequency of gambling-yearly (or less), monthly, and weekly-and investigated how gambling frequency related to irrational beliefs, risk-taking/impulsivity, and foraging behavior. We found that increased gambling frequency corresponded to greater gambling-related beliefs, more exploratory choices on an explore/exploit foraging task, and fewer points earned on a Patchy Foraging Task. Gambling-related beliefs negatively related to performance on the Patchy Foraging Task, indicating that individuals with more gambling-related cognitions tended to leave a patch too quickly. This indicates that frequent gamblers have reduced foraging ability to maximize rewards; however, gambling frequency -and by extension, poor foraging ability- was not related to risk-taking or impulsive behavior. These results suggest that gambling reflects the application of a dysfunctional foraging process to financial outcomes.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Addicott, MA; Pearson, JM; Kaiser, N; Platt, ML; McClernon, FJ

Published Date

  • October 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 129 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 656 - 665

PubMed ID

  • 26191945

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC4586367

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1939-0084

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1037/bne0000082


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States