Study of Gambling Behavior Could Help Researchers Understand How People Make Choices

A specific area of the brain may be responsible for a gambler’s activities and decisions, and could help researchers understand why people make decisions in other areas of their lives.

In a collaborative approach described in a ScienceDaily article, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and Trinity College in Ireland examined what happens in the brains of gamblers when they’re making choices at the game table.

Specifically, the difference may lie in the way the dorsal striatum functions and if a person made a gambling decision based on success with previous decisions – or if they are making a decision based on areas they suspect will be lucky, also referred to as the gambler’s fallacy.

The activities of the dorsal striatum seemed more related to decisions that were reinforcement-based, suggesting that when people decide at the gambling table based on perceptions of luck, they may not be considering prior lessons they have learned.

When the participants made choices related to things they had experienced in the past, their dorsal striatum seemed more active than when they made choices based on perceptions toward luck. Researchers believe this means that the brain area that is activated in the learning process is also activated at the moment people make a decision.

As researchers learn more about these processes involved in choice and the recall of previous actions, they hope to learn more about why some people are more susceptible to psychiatric diseases or are more prone to addictions.