Two Drake psychology professors conclude that most gamblers mistakenly believe they can win through skill or luck. Drake professor W. Scott Wood says their research confirms the suspicions long held by those who study gambling. “Validates it, really, with research that both casual gamblers and problem gamblers appear to hold two substantial misconceptions about the games they play,” Wood says. “The first we call ‘illusion of control’ which is the idea that they can somehow by skill or knowledge or insight they can affect the outcome to increase their chances of winning.”
The other belief is superstition, according to Wood. “Like fate is somehow going to help them,” Wood says. He calls the illusion of control and superstitious beliefs “cognitive errors.” Wood’s research shows the more a gambler believes they’re lucky or skilled, the more they’ll gamble. Wood says you see it in other “games” like sports when athletes become superstitious and wear the same socks for every game, or eat the same pre-game meal because they ate it once before they won a game and don’t want to “break the luck.” Wood says gamblers can also be misinformed about the games of chance they play.
He says the gambling industry tries to capitalize on these misconceptions. “For example, you go to Las Vegas and you’re playing roulette, they will show you all the winning numbers that have come up. That tells you nothing,” Wood says. “Those numbers are randomly generated each time the game is played.”
Wood, who grew up near Las Vegas, says he is “neither pro- nor antigambling.” He says there is “simply no kind of skill or knowledge that helps you win a game of chance…the odds always favor the house. The more you play, the more likely you are to lose – and there is no skill, insight, or lucky charm that can change that.” Wood’s research is published in the December issue of the Journal of Gambling Studies.