High-risk players recognize they are influenced by emotions when gambling

We know from previous research that emotions and feelings play a central part in problem gambling. We also know that emotions tend to influence our decisions and affect risk attitudes when gambling. But can we, by creating a self-assessment test with personal feedback, increase the player’s knowledge on how emotions affect their ability to make rational decisions when gambling?


The answer is:  Yes, partly.


10 000 tests were analysed

When we studied the test-answers and compared them to the player’s Playscan score (low, medium or high-risk player), we saw that low risk and medium risk players increased their knowledge about the role of emotions. However, the main finding was that moderate risk and problem gamblers tend to be influenced by their emotional state to a much higher degree, and that they themselves were aware of this behaviour.

Creating a self-assessment test

We have learnt that people like taking self-assessment tests – especially if they can tell you more about yourself. How smart you appear to be, what you apparently like to do and what type of personality you appear to have.

With this in mind, we created a test and named it “Who decides?”. The test-taker is asked a series of questions to decide if they are playing mostly while under rational, or emotional influence – hot or cold cognition.

Hot cognition is a hypothesis on cognition affected by emotion, while decision making with cold cognition is more likely to involve logic and critical analysis.

The test took about three minutes to finish and was offered to players who had activated Playscan. The players answered questions like: “To what extent does your feelings affect you when gambling” and “Do you find it easy to stop gambling when you are winning/losing”? We also wrote some scenarios in which the player had to take a stand:


“Imagine that you have gambled for a while and won a total of 800 SEK. Do you continue gambling, or are you satisfied with your prize and do you stop gambling that moment?”


After the test the players got feedback, mirroring their answers, for example, “Your answers show that you seem to have a hard time stopping your gambling when winning.”

Our underlying assumption was challenged

We assumed that players have a poor understanding of how emotions or being in a state of hot or cold cognition, affect their decisions while gambling. Our result shows that most players actually understand that their emotions affect their ability to stop gambling. Can this information be useful for future responsible gambling initiatives or even research?

We believe that there is a lot of opportunity in responsible gambling from studying player’s perception of their gambling behaviour. With these findings in mind, we are now developing a new test, to better target the state of high-risk players –with the goal of nudging them into making smart decisions when gambling.

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