Slot machines are typically accompanied by ringing sounds, which make the game more exciting for players. But a new study by researchers at the University of Waterloo suggests the sounds of the slots cause players to overestimate the amount they win, while also increasing a physiological arousal in the body.
The study was led by Mike Dixon, a professor of psychology at the University of Waterloo, who recruited 96 gamblers to play two rounds on a slot machine simulator. One round kept the usual slots sounds intact, while the other round disabled the sounds.
On a typical slot machine, players hear a celebratory jingle when they win on a reel, and hear a sweeping congratulatory song if they win the jackpots. When players lose their bet, the machine makes no sounds to signify the loss. But when players bet more than the minimum requirement and win back less than what they bet, the machine still makes the usual celebratory jingle. Dixon describes these sounds as disguising “losses as wins.”
The research team measured each of the player’s physiological responses to winning or losing, with and without the sounds. Dixon reasoned that a player overestimates how much they win on the slots due to the sounds, which elevate the amount of enjoyment players feel while playing the game. Dixon determined that 24 percent of the participants overestimated how much they won while playing with the slots sounds, while only 15 percent overestimated without the sounds.
“Although sounds may have contributed to players’ enjoyment of the game, sound may also lead to an overestimation of winning.”
Dixon says when players bet on the slots, their heart rates increase while their palms are likely to sweat, especially when they win or “win disguised losses.” These physiological responses in turn increase skin conductance, which is a measure of the body’s arousal. The research team determined that a player’s arousal was significantly higher while playing slots with the sounds as opposed to silent machines. When asked which session they preferred, the majority of players responded that the games with the sounds were more enjoyable than those without, suggesting a subconscious awareness of their body’s reaction to the slots.
Dixon submitted his work to Springer’s “Journal Of Gambling Studies,” which includes a number of gambling, casino, and online casino studies.