In ludomania (Problem gambling) there seems to be a link between impulsive nature and erroneous reasoning. This has been shown in a research study led by the University of Cambridge. Affected individuals may strongly believe in superstitions and fortune.

While studying the behavior of compulsive gamblers on treatment at the National Problem Gambling Clinic, it was found that subjects who had a high level of impulsivity were more prone to errors in reasoning linked to gambling. Such subjects believed more on superstitions, like holding a lucky charm. They also had a tendency towards associating any losses in gambling to misfortune or ‘cold’ machines.

The results of this study appeared in the journal Psychological Medicine on June 29, 2011.

This research was conducted at the National Problem Gambling Clinic which started working in 2008 and is the only NIH funded institution for disordered gambling in the UK. It was sponsored by the Medical Research Council (MRC) which is a publicly-funded organization in the UK dedicated to improving human health.

Gambling has always remained a famous form of entertainment, but problem gambling or ludomania is a known psychiatric diagnosis affecting nearly 1% of the population in the UK. Symptoms of this disorder include uncontrolled gambling and withdrawal effects, such as irritability. The resultant social consequences include gambling debts and family difficulties.

Dr Luke Clark, from the Department of Experimental Psychiatry at the University of Cambridge, states that the relation between impulsivity and gambling beliefs signify that a high level of impulsivity in a gambler predisposes towards multiple complex and irrational beliefs, such as superstitions. Dr. Clark explains that their research attempts to relate these two major causes of problem gambling which predisposes some gamblers to develop ludomania.

Scientists from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London conducted a clinical trial with 30 gamblers on treatment and 30 non-gamblers taken as controls. In this study, assessment of impulsivity was made by asking questions involving financial trade-offs. For example, the subjects were asked about their preference regarding accepting £20 ($32) today or £35 ($55) in two weeks. Impulsivity is defined by psychologists as a preference for the immediate smaller rewards. In this study it was found that the gamblers opted more for the short term reward, thereby demonstrating their impulsive behavior. A questionnaire used in this study demonstrated that the impulsive behavior was more during high or low moods, which are frequent triggers for initiating gambling sprees.

Previous studies have identified an ‘addictive personality’ in ludomania, but this recent study has elucidated that high impulsivity also leads to errors in reasoning and more belief in superstitions and fortune. Ludomania has a male preponderance and is also associated with other mental health problems, such as alcoholism and depression.

Dr. Clark reassured that there are multiple treatment options available for problem gambling, such as psychotherapy and medications. He is hopeful that their research will bring in more insight into the problem and direct future treatments.

“Impulsivity and cognitive distortions in pathological gamblers attending the UK National Problem Gambling Clinic: a preliminary report”
R. Michalczuka, H. Bowden-Jonesa, A. Verdejo-Garciaa and L. Clark
Psychological Medicine. Cambridge University Press 2011. doi:10.1017/S003329171100095X

Written by Barry Winsdor