Gambling with somebody’s reputation (Part 4): The story behind the story

Today, The Times Higher published a story about me (‘Mark Griffiths – the professor who publishes a paper every two days’) written by the journalist Jack Grove. Mr. Grove has had contact with me by both email and telephone over the past few months and I have given him full answers to every question he has asked me. Mr. Grove originally contacted me in July after Professor Dorothy Bishop had written a blog about me. I published a couple of blogs responding to both the blog by Prof. Bishop and my responses to Mr. Groves’ earlier enquiries. Mr. Groves was very interested in the number of papers I had published this year and he appeared to be questioning to what extent I had co-authored all the papers published this year. Straight after him contacting me, I emailed every co-author I had published with this year and within 24 hours, almost all of them had emailed Mr. Grove back outlining the contributions I had made to all the papers I had co-authored. On July 21, Mr. Grove emailed me and said:

“Dear Mark. Sorry for not contacting you yesterday – I am considering how to proceed with this story given the testimonials that I have received from your collaborators, and the responses provided to Professor Bishop from the journal editors whom I also contacted and your blog. As such, I’m putting things on hold for now. As many of your more senior collaborators stated, your publication rate is unusually high and does raise questions about these papers so you can see why I was interested to find out more. The responses were very informative in other ways too.”

Within minutes of receiving this email, I responded and said:

“Hi Jack. As I said, I was very happy to talk to you and very happy to go through how I do what I do. I have done nothing wrong. If you want to revisit the story, then feel free to get in touch”

Mr. Grove got in touch with me again towards the send of September, and on late afternoon September 29, I had a 45-minute conversation covering many differing aspects of my research and publishing strategies. I began the interview by asking what the focus of Mr. Grove’s was going to be and I made it very clear that I had concerns that the planned article was going to be a “hatchet job” on me. Mr. Grove said that was not his intention and that he genuinely wanted to know how I do what I do. We talked both on and off the record, and I was nothing but honest and gave straight answers to straight questions. The conversation included my day-to-day writing and editing routines, my strategies for writing and publishing, who I worked with, how I worked with them, my internal and external collaborators, publishing with students (including undergraduates, and in particular my collaborations with Md. Abdullah Mamun, and how our research collaboration began), “gift authorship” (something I had never heard of before), my affiliations (I said my only affiliation was NTU but Mr. Grove said I had multiple affiliations on Scopus and asked whether this was a deliberate ploy to help NTU up the world league table of university rankings), and my relationship with the gambling industry (Mr. Grove said he had talked to others in my field and said that I “gave the gambling industry an easy ride”).

Straight after the interview, I sent Mr. Grove some further emails clarifying some of the things I had said. The first email (sent at 5.30pm, September 29) said:

“Hi Jack. You should read this very short article that I wrote on gambling funding which briefly outlines my position on the issue.”

Attached to my email was a copy of: Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2015). Research funding in gambling studies: Some further observations. International Gambling Studies, 15, 15-19). The second one I sent was at 6.35pm and said:

“Hi Jack. You asked me in our phone call about my contributions to paper and specifically asked me about publishing with Md. Abdullah Mamun. Attached is the first paper I worked on with him and these are three versions I worked on before submission. There was then a fourth version (also attached) that addressed the reviewers’ comments and was eventually published in Psychiatry Research. I also attach the response letter that I wrote. I would draw your attention to Version 1 (the first file attached) as this gives you a very clear idea of my typical input to papers as it goes way beyond “editing” that you were trying to suggest earlier on. I will repeat what I said verbally. My name only appears on those papers where I have made an intellectual contribution. You also appeared to suggest that it is OK in the sciences for there to be over 2000 authors on a paper but not in the social sciences. I don’t think that’s OK at all. I’m still not sure why you think what I do is somehow suspect compared to the 500+ academics in the UK that have published more papers than me”.

Mr. Grove replied to me the next day (September 30, 11.15am) and said:

“Thanks Mark. This is useful to see the process that is used – it will do my best to communicate this model of critical revision that you describe. While it is certainly time-consuming and important for the paper, the concern is that this input is generally at a late stage in the research process – whereas social science scholars, in particular, are generally involved across the entire lifespan of a piece of a study – hence why most scholars in these disciplines struggle to publish more than one or two pieces a year. Thanks for speaking to me yesterday – I am certainly not aiming at a hatchet job, as you suggest. Your method, however, is fairly unusual and it may be helpful to explain it – as, from the outside, many might assume you’re benefiting from the ‘gift authorship’ practices seen in the sciences, which I’ve examined and been critical of in my previous stories…PS, I have attached a screenshot from Scopus – which seemed to suggest various affiliations beyond NTU, but it seems this is more to do with a clerical error on behalf of publishers. However, I thought it best to raise the issue – which, you were, understandably perplexed by”.

I read Mr. Grove’s email after coming out of a very long meeting that I had been in that day (30 September, 2:02pm). I responded by saying:

“Hi Jack. Sorry for not responding sooner but I have been in meetings since 10am this morning. For the record I only have only had one affiliation since October 1, 1995 – Nottingham Trent University. Any other affiliations attributed to me on any database is someone else’s mistake not mine. Your suggestion that I was somehow systematically manipulating the situation with regards to affiliations to increase Nottingham Trent University’s position in the world league tables are (in my opinion) totally unfounded and not something had ever even entered my thoughts until you mentioned it to me. I hope my article on gambling funding explain my position on these matters. I also want to counter your proposition that I “give the gambling industry an easy ride” (which is what I wrote down in my notes of yesterday’s chat). I will send to you in a different email dozens of papers published over the past few years which show that is simply untrue and unfounded.

I have never heard of the term ‘gift authorship’ and totally dispute the idea that such publications are a ‘gift’ (simply based on the sheer amount of work I have to do to get them into a publishable state). I estimate that less than 2% of all the refereed papers I have ever published come from researchers sending me papers to contribute to. As I said yesterday, I get sent such papers every week and the overwhelming majority are returned with my comments highlighting why I am not taking them up on their offer. The overwhelming majority of my papers are co-written with (i) my PhD students (I have had 44 to date), (ii) MSc/BSc project students that I have supervised, and (iii) papers from joint research projects with my international colleagues”

Straight after sending that email, I sent another email (at 2:08pm) in which I sent Mr. Grove some confidential material demonstrating the kind of emails I get sent regarding contributing papers and how I declined these. At 2.18pm, I sent another email with 42 of my recent papers on gambling (2018-2020). I wrote:

“Hi Jack. Please find attached a selection of my recent papers on gambling. The suggestion that I give the industry an easy ride is clearly not the case based on the papers attached. I have loads more that I am happy to send.”

Finally, Mr. Grove got in touch with me again on October 9 asking if he could interview me again about some things he forgot to ask me in our first conversation. I replied and said I was happy to speak to him the next day. At 4.21pm (October 9) I also emailed Mr. Grove with responses to further things he wanted to ask me about. I copied his questions into an email and gave my responses. Here are his questions and my unedited responses.

JG: Just a word to say I’ve been slightly sidetracked by other things so the interview won’t out until next week at the earliest. Thanks for speaking me – the one question that I didn’t have chance to ask you was about citations and your h-index.

MG: Happy to talk about this but for the record these are secondary to my work and simply a by-product of my passion for research.

JG: I think the reason why Dorothy Bishop chose to write about you was that she is interested in what she has described as ‘citation circles’, in which groups of researchers loosely connected cite each other’s work a lot. 

MG: I’ve never heard of a ‘citation circle’ and it’s not something I personally engage in or have ever engaged in. I’ve publicly outlined my strategies for increasing citations (attached) [I attached the following article to my email: Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24].

JG: I don’t know if this is true for you and your colleagues, but I did notice that you cite your own work quite a lot (perhaps unsurprisingly if you have 1,500 publications), so I wondered if you could comment on these two issues. 

MG: I cite my own work where appropriate and to be honest I can’t think of anyone that I know who doesn’t. However, self-citation does not count on Scopus

JG: Also, are your levels of self-citation to be expected, particularly when you work in a fairly niche area? 

MG: Since when is behavioural addiction a niche area? Most of my departmental colleagues ask me how they can move into a more mainstream area like mine.

JG: Can I also ask why you choose to publish a lot in certain publications. I don’t know the field of psychology that well but it seems there are more prestigious outlets, with a higher h-index, than the journals you tend to favour (which are entirely legitimate and have a decent h-index). 

MG: I publish my work in the journals which are the most read in my field including many interdisciplinary journals because many of my papers have no psychology in them at all. You clearly have no idea about my areas of research interest. I publish in the top journals in my field. You seem to be focusing on the number of papers in specific journals rather than the percentage of papers I publish in specific journals as a percentage of my total outputs.

JG: An academic with your h-index would normally be expected to publish regularly in the very top journals, so I’d be interested to know why you’ve gone for the more niche gambling journals than those that are more widely read and cited.

MG: I do publish regularly in the top journals in my field as well as those that I know are most read by researchers in my field. I told you very explicitly in a previous interview that I am a disseminator and that I want my work to be read and applied. I told you that one of the proudest moments in my career was getting my first full page ‘by line’ in The Sun – and even published about this in a blog for the British Psychological Society in 2011 (attached). In the last REF, my research was singled out as being of 4* quality and world-leading. REF impact has little to do with publishing in a particular journal – it is based on how your research is used in the real world.

Mr. Grove then said that he would ring me the next day but he didn’t. His article was published today. However, Mr. Grove was true to his word. He didn’t do a “hatchet job” on me and the things I discussed ‘off the record’ remained so. For that I must thank him most sincerely.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Gambling research and the search for a sustainable funding infrastructure. Gambling Research, 21(1), 28-32.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). My Pride. British Psychological Society Research Digest, February 9. Located at: http://bps-research-digest.blogspot.com/2011/02/mark-griffiths-my-pride.html

Griffiths, M.D. (2015). How to improve your citation count. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 96, 23-24.

Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2015). Research funding in gambling studies: Some further observations. International Gambling Studies, 15, 15-19.

Kindred spirits: A brief look at responsible gambling

Anyone that has read my research on gambling will know that I am committed to player protection, harm-minimization, social responsibility, and responsible gambling. I was recently interviewed by Kindred Gaming for an article on their website. This blog contains the full unedited transcript of that interview.

Kindred: You have worked in the field for several years now, what are the biggest changes you have seen to the industry when it comes to responsible gambling and player protection?

MG: I’ve been working in the gambling studies field for 33 years and it was around 1996 that I first began to think about my research in terms of social responsibility issues. It was in the early 2000s that some of the more forward thinking gaming operators started to bring in socially responsible gambling features (particularly in countries such as Sweden, Norway, Canada and Australia although that might be more reflective of the clients who I had consultancy with at the time). It is over the past decade that responsible gambling has really come to the fore, and many gambling regulators around the world will not grant operating licences unless the gaming operators can demonstrate what they are doing in terms of player protection and harm-minimization. The biggest changes are arguably in the online medium because there are so many protective measures that can be initiated online such as various limit-setting features, temporary self-exclusions and cool-off periods, pop-up messaging, bespoke personalized feedback, mandatory play breaks, and the use of behavioural tracking tools.

Kindred: Focusing on your study “An Empirical Study of the Effect of Voluntary Limit-Setting on Gamblers’ Loyalty Using Behavioural Tracking Data” can you tell us a bit about the key findings, and how you view voluntary vs mandatory limits and other control tools?

MG: Kindred kindly gave us access to a dataset of 175,818 players who had placed at least one bet or gambled at least once during January 2016 to May 2017. In a nutshell we looked at active players over a one-year period and found that the percentage of active players in the first quarter of 2017 was significantly higher in the group of players who had set voluntary money limits in the first quarter of 2016 compared to players that did not. This suggests that players who set voluntary spending limits were more loyal to Kindred compared to those who do not. On the assumption that voluntary limit-setting should be part of a gaming operator’s corporate social responsibility strategy, our findings appear to underline the fact that CSR has a positive effect on business outcomes. With regards to the issue of voluntary vs. mandatory limit-setting, I’m personally in favour of it being mandatory for players to set their own time and money limits if they want to gamble. Many players don’t set their own limits but I think making it mandatory would help players in terms of managing their budgets. Some companies have default global monthly limits on how much money players can lose but that can become restrictive for those who can afford to gamble with larger amounts of money and can also be restrictive for some kinds of gambling (sports betting being the type of gambling most affected).

Kindred: How do you think operators and the academic world can work together for a safer and more sustainable gambling industry in the coming years?

MG: If both academics and the gambling industry have a shared goal of preventing and reducing problem gambling, I think there are good pragmatic reasons to work collaboratively. Personally, I think some of the best gambling research that I have done is working with gambling companies (and I would stress that I am working with gambling companies and not for them) simply because of the high quality data that gambling operators have. Obviously there are many academics who have criticized myself (and my colleagues) for such collaborations but I think the positives of working together outweighs the negatives. As long as we have complete independence to publish the results of what we find without interference from the operators, I do not have a problem in working together. My main area in this field is the evaluation of responsible gambling tools and whether the measures introduced by operators to help their players gamble more responsibly and/or can help prevent/reduce problem gambling. Over the past eight years, Dr. Michael Auer and myself have evaluated the efficacy of limit-setting, mandatory play breaks, pop-up messaging, personalized feedback, loss-limit reminders, and other gambling operator initiatives. Some of these appear to work and others less so. To move the field forward and to help maintain safe and sustainable gambling, collaborative research needs to continue. I have worked with and carried out consultancy with over 30 gambling companies around the world and am very proud of companies changing their practices and policies in relation to the findings of our research. If research findings cannot be applied to help the greater good, then what is the point of doing research if it has little practical benefit? For me, it’s a ‘win-win’ situation.

Kindred: Kindred has set an ambition to reach zero percent revenue from harmful gambling, what do you see as the key steps towards 100% enjoyable gambling?

MG: The aim is laudable but going to be difficult to achieve because harmful gambling (including problem gambling) can never be totally eliminated – although I do believe it can be kept to a minimum. I’ve always argued that problem gamblers have a relatively short customer life for gambling companies and that what sustainable companies need is long-term customer retention. Problem gamblers cannot give companies that and gambling operators need to think about lifetime customer value with decades of repeat business from those who gamble within their limits over a long period of time rather than relatively high spending from a minority of customers who may only gamble with the company for a few years. Customers will keep coming back to gambling operators if they have a product or products that customers feel is value for money and provides enjoyment – even if they lose money. There are a number of key steps that all gambling companies should take if they want sustainable and safe gambling including informed choice. These include (but are not limited to) (i) providing customers with all the information they need so that they can make an informed choice about whether they want to gamble, (ii) responsible marketing and advertising, (iii) robust age verification checks of customers, (iv) robust financial checks of customers, (v) mandatory limit-setting for customers, (v) using customer data to intervene and help high-risk gamblers via bespoke pop-up messaging and personalized messaging, (vi) partnering with gambling prevention and treatment agencies, and (vii) robust voluntary self-exclusion schemes.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Voluntary limit setting and player choice in most intense online gamblers: An empirical study of gambling behaviour. Journal of Gambling Studies, 29, 647-660.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). An empirical investigation of theoretical loss and gambling intensity. Journal of Gambling Studies, 30, 879-887.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). Testing normative and self-appraisal feedback in an online slot-machine pop-up message in a real-world setting. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 339.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2015). The use of personalized behavioral feedback for problematic online gamblers: An empirical study. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1406.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2016). Personalized behavioral feedback for online gamblers: A real world empirical study. Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1875.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). The use of personalized messages on wagering behavior of Swedish online gamblers: An empirical study. Computers in Human Behavior, 110, 106402.

Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). Predicting limit-setting behavior of gamblers using machine learning algorithms: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers using account data. International Journal of Mental Health and Addictions. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00166-2

Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). The effect of loss-limit reminders on gambling behavior: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions,7(4), 1056-1067.

Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2018). The effect of loss-limit reminders on gambling behavior: A real world study of Norwegian gamblers. Journal of Behavioral Addictions,7(4), 1056-1067.

Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). The effects of voluntary deposit limit-setting on long-term online gambling behavior. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking, 23, 113-118.

Auer, M., Hopfgartner, N. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020).  An empirical study of the effect of voluntary limit setting on gamblers’ loyalty using behavioral tracking data. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11469-019-00084-3.

Auer, M., Malischnig, D. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Is ‘pop-up’ messaging in online slot machine gambling effective? An empirical research note. Journal of Gambling Issues, 29, 1-10.

Ukhov, I., Bjurgert, J., Auer, M. & Griffiths, M.D. (2020). Online problem gambling: A comparison of casino players and sports bettors via predictive modeling using behavioral tracking data. Journal of Gambling Studies. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10899-020-09964-z

Gambling with someone’s reputation (Part 3)

Over the past few weeks there have been a number of academics who have accused me of self-plagiarism. Here, I briefly outline what I have done and have not done in relation to the allegations I have seen. I think we would all agree with the definition dictionary definition of ‘plagiarism’, i.e., “the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own” (Cambridge Dictionary). Logically, based on this definition, ‘self-plagiarism’ would equate to the process or practice of using one’s own ideas and pretending that they are your own, but this is of course ludicrous.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘self-plagiarism as “the reuse of one’s own words, ideas, or artistic expression (as in an essay) from preexisting material especially without acknowledgment of their earlier use”. On the same page as this definition is a quote from the journalist Taylor Wofford who notes “Borrowing your own words is a tricky issue. Writers and publishers tend to rank self-plagiarism as a lesser offense than – what should we call it? – ‘real’ plagiarism? Still, they mostly agree it’s a no-no”.

On July 10 (2020), Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne (Deputy Editor of The Psychologist) emailed me:

“At The Psychologist, we are considering writing a piece on the concept and practice of self-plagiarism. We have seen Brendan O’Connor and others on Twitter highlighting concerns over some of your published output. Might you or your institution be interested in making a statement for us around whether you think there is actually a practice here that needs to change?”

I immediately responded to her email and said:

“I’ve not read all the comments on Twitter (and I am not going to respond to anything on Twitter as that is not the place to do it) but the alleged instances of self-plagiarism primarily revolve around my use of journal text in populist non-refereed non-journal outputs. For instance, when I write for magazines like ‘Education and Health’ (a magazine for teachers) or in newspaper or magazine articles I will use text from my journal papers…I write for many different audiences. Obviously I write and co-write refereed journal papers but I am also a freelance journalist, a prolific blogger, and write articles for the trade press (e.g., gambling and gaming magazines) as well as articles in professional publications that are not peer-reviewed. Personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible. The alleged examples of self-plagiarism that I have seen directed towards me comprise less than 1% of my refereed journal papers. I am very proud of my publication record in many different spheres. For the record, most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 15 or more years ago and are making no distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets”.

I make no secret of using text from my refereed papers in my blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, press releases, trade press publications, consultancy reports, and reports for third parties (e.g., calls for evidence from parliamentary committees). Those who have been using plagiarism software on my refereed papers have included results from text that is not from refereed papers.

For instance, a number of examples I saw of my alleged self-plagiarism concerned the magazine Education and Health. Education and Health is a magazine for teachers and parents and is produced by the School Health Education Unit in Exeter focusing on adolescent health and education issues. Education and Health has no copyright (i.e., no author has to sign a copyright form), is not peer-reviewed, and articles do not have a doi, contain keywords, or have an abstract). I have published in it regularly for three decades. In some of the articles I have written for Education and Health, I have taken an academic review paper (6000-11000 words) and then turned it into a dumbed down ‘pop’ article (1000-1500 words). I’ve done this a number of times over the past 30 years. An example that I saw online last week was in relation to a 2011 open access paper by Daria Kuss and myself (i.e., Kuss, D. J. & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552).

This was an 11,000-word systematic literature review on social networking addiction. It has become one of our most cited papers (1,528 citations on Google Scholar as of this morning). After publishing this refereed paper, I then turned this into a 1500-word ‘pop’ version for Education and Health (Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Excessive online social networking: Can adolescents become addicted to Facebook? Education and Health, 29. 63-66.). In the first paragraph, the Education and Health article clearly states:

As a consequence of the increased media attention to headlines about ‘Facebook addiction’, we recently reviewed all the scientific evidence on the topic (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011a). This article briefly summarises what we found”.

This sentence cites the paper from which all the material in the article comes from. I have not tried to hide anything or pretend that the article contains original material. The article was for teachers and parents. It contains a summary of the key things found in our refereed paper and uses text from that paper. If others want to view it as ‘self-plagiarism’ I have no problem with that. I view it as dissemination of our work to an audience outside of academia.

Any of us in British academia knows how important the Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact agenda is. My own research was rated as having 4* world-leading impact at the last REF and I’m hoping to repeat it this time. One of the ways I have gone about this is to disseminate my work to as many non-academic audiences as possible. My articles in the gambling trade press have been instrumental in the research and consultancy monies that I have generated for my university in the area of responsible gambling, player protection, and harm-minimization.

Almost all of the examples I have seen of my alleged self-plagiarism comes from this type of practice where I have turned pure academic papers into something more populist. Occasionally it has worked the other way (i.e., I’ve written a populist piece and then worked it up into an academic paper although the instances of this are much fewer). As I said above, personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible.

Most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 10-15 years ago (although I did see one from 2015, again with Education and Health being the source of alleged self-plagiarism) and no-one appears to be making any distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets. Plagiarism software does not indicate whether the text it finds comes from a refereed paper or non-refereed article. No-one who has accused me of self-plagiarism has contacted me personally and asked my about the source material and whether a particular piece of writing was refereed or not. There appears to be an assumption that all alleged self-plagiarised sources were from refereed papers (but they weren’t).

I should also add that there are other examples of my work that have been reproduced with permission from the publishers and/or copyright holders. For instance, the publisher IGI Global regularly republishes my work in other guises. Here’s an example I received this week from them (the words in bold were by the publisher and not me):

“I hope this message finds you well, especially during this turbulent time. It is with great pleasure that I am informing you that your contribution titled “UK-Based Police Officers’ Perceptions of, and Role in Investigating, Cyber-Harassment as a Crime,” previously published in an IGI Global publication, was carefully assessed and selected by IGI Global’s executive editorial board for inclusion as a reprinted chapter (100% completely unchanged from the original) in the recently published IGI Global research anthology titled Police Science.

IGI Global’s research anthologies, also called “Critical Explorations”, were created after an extensive survey was conducted with academic librarians, who requested to have a cost-effective and timely way to enhance their collections with the highest quality, timely research. This line of publications allows our publishing house to hand-select the highest quality research content (book chapters and journal articles of which IGI Global owns the copyright), to be reprinted in a research anthology format. This format also allows the author’s research to become more accessible and visible to a larger community of researchers around the world so that they can benefit from additional exposure (i.e. citations) for their work.

Please note that there is no intent to deceive anyone. We execute the highest level of transparency, as every single chapter that appears in these publications are labeled with a special notation indicating that it is reprinted content and listing the original source of the material. Additionally, because we are maintaining the integrity of the original published work, no changes have been made nor can be made to the chapter”.

I fully understand that my explanation for how and why I publish with different audiences will not be accepted by detractors, but that’s not why I wrote this. All I can do is give my side of how I disseminate my work and ideas to as many people as possible.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Gambling with someone’s reputation (Part 2)

Yesterday I published a short blog in response to Dorothy Bishop’s blog who questioned some of the editorial practices of journals that I regularly published in. As a consequence of Dorothy Bishop’s blog, I was contacted by Jack Grove, a journalist at the Times Higher Education on late Friday afternoon (July 17). Mr. Grove wrote:

“I am a journalist in London who writes on research integrity issues. I’m following up a recent blog by an Oxford University professor who has called attention to what sees as questionable publication practices in some of the journals that you regularly write in, namely to do with your research output… The blog raises some interesting questions about your relationship with these journals as so much of your work appears in them. While I can see that they are relevant to your research area, I’m sure you can appreciate why this pattern of publication is concerning.

Professor Bishop also mentions your publication rate which does seem rather astonishing. Looking at your personal web page it seems you have published some 113 articles so far this year – which is more than one every two days, and more than 1,700 pieces in your career so far, which raises some questions about how much input you are actually having on these co-authored publications. This has been raised a few times before, with some critics saying that, with self-citation, it’s a handy way to inflate your h-index. If you could respond to these concerns, I would be much obliged as I intend to write something about this next week”

Within five minutes of receiving the email I wrote back to Mr. Grove:

“I would be delighted to talk to you and I can send you every draft of every single article I have co-written this year (and most years over the last decade) because I keep every version of every paper with every track change I have ever made. I’ve done this for years for eventualities like this because some individuals simply don’t believe that I have co-authored all the papers I have published. Attached is the response that has been sent to Dr. Bishop by the Journal of Behavioral Addiction. I’m not sure how other journals are going to respond but I would imagine it would be along the same lines as this. Happy to talk now, over the weekend, or at you convenience. My home number is [supplied my number]. I would be delighted to talk to you about how I do what I do. I have contributed to every single paper I have ever published and can prove it”.

Mr. Grove emailed back to say he would like to chat to me Monday afternoon (July 20). On the morning of July 20, I emailed Mr. Grove to ask him what time he would like to speak to me that afternoon. He didn’t reply and he didn’t ring me that afternoon. In the meantime, on Friday evening (July 17, 2020), I emailed all the people that I have published with this year and wrote:

“Today I have been approached by a journalist (Jack Grove) at the Times Higher Education here in the UK about all the articles I have co-authored and published this year so far (over 100) – see his email below. His email claims that the number of papers I have co-published this year “raises some questions about how much input you are actually having on these co-authored publications”. I would be very grateful if you could confirm to Jack that my co-authorships on our papers were as a direct result of intellectually and physically writing and contributing to each of the papers I have co-published with you. His email appears to be implying that my name is just being put on papers without any contribution from me which I find very hurtful and is questioning my integrity. As you probably all know, I keep every version of every paper that I contribute to and am happy to share these with the journalist. I’m sorry to have to do this but I would be very grateful if you could simply confirm that I materially contributed to the publication(s) we co-authored. Please don’t reply to everyone, just to the journalist and myself will suffice”.

Since writing my email, almost all the people I contacted have emailed Mr. Grove. Here are some excerpts of the emails that Mr. Grove has received. They demonstrate that I materially and intellectually contributed to every paper I have co-authored and published this year.

Xavi Carbonell (Spain)

“I have been working with Mark in the last few years. I am in debt with him as are some of my doctoral students (Marta Beranuy, Alexandra Rodríguez and Héctor Fuster). Mark has been helping a lot, been always available and making substantial contributions to our research and to the papers. Mark also was the tutor of three-month international research stays of Marta Beranuy and Alexandra Rodríguez and one short research stay of myself. I could provide you with some of the manuscripts that we have been working on where you can see (visible changes in the word document) the suggestions and changes provided by Mark in the preliminary versions of the manuscript. Mark is a tireless and efficient worker and I am very proud to know him and very grateful to him”.

Vasileios Stavropoulos (Australia)

“In all the papers that we have worked together [Mark Griffiths] had significant intellectual contribution in at least three different ways: (i) contribution to the research idea conception, before data collection/research implementation, (ii) interpretation of the findings, and (iii) review and final edit of the final document submitted. The reason that I have initially aimed to collaborate with [him 4 years ago] had to do with his international reputation and my desire to gain visibility for my work.  The reasons that I now continue working with him are: (a) his thoroughness; (b) his speed in delivering outcome; (c) his collegiality; and (d) his honesty. I can also confirm that in every single paper we have worked together, the title page of the initial submission to the journal has always included the specific authors’ contributions.  I can also provide all his thoroughly edited (with track changes) documents, and emails for every research submission we have had together”.

Mustafa Savci (Turkey)

“Dr. Griffiths made unique contributions to my studies. In the papers we published, [his] contribution was not less than mine. I have always appreciated [his] contributions in papers we co-author. I want you to know that I have witnessed that the allegations were unfounded”.

William Van Gordon (UK)

“Sorry to hear about these allegations. [Dr. Griffiths] certainly made meaningful and material contributions to papers that we wrote together”.

Pawel Atroszko (Poland)

“I write in relation to your e-mail to Prof. Mark D. Griffiths concerning his prolific academic output in terms of published scientific papers, and doubts raised by Professor Bishop’s piece. Since 2015, I have written several papers with Prof. Mark D. Griffiths…I would like to confirm that his co-authorships on our papers were as a direct result of intellectually and physically writing and contributing to each of the papers we have co-published. I believe the rate of publishing of Prof. Griffiths is a reflection of his extraordinary work ethic and expertise in the field of behavioral addictions. He can be considered among the most important researchers worldwide in establishing the field in recent decades and dynamically moving it forward, and has been publishing on the issues related to compulsive behaviors (to my knowledge) since the late 1980s when the field of behavioral addictions was still virtually non-existent. From this point of view, he embodies the history of this field and has an unparalleled overview of its development, and deep understanding of its issues. Taking into account my knowledge of the behavioral addictions field and my experiences of collaborating with Prof. Griffiths, I would conclude that his expertise matched with inexhaustible engagement in moving the field forward in development, as well as openness and willingness to collaborate best explain his prolific publishing. In relation to Professor Bishop’s piece, she wrote on his blog: ‘Neither IJMHA nor JBA publishes the dates of submission and acceptance of articles, and so it is not possible to evaluate this concern’. I would like to point that this statement is not true and all of my papers with Prof. Mark D. Griffiths published in JBA from the first one in 2015 to the most recent one were peer reviewed, have submission dates and acceptance dates printed on the first page of the paper, and Prof. Griffiths has actively participated in the process of correcting papers after suggestions of the reviewers. In the case of all of my papers with Prof. Griffiths, he was engaged in the process of writing them from clarification of the initial idea till final corrections after reviews”.

Daria Kuss (UK)

“Professor Mark Griffiths is a leader in the field of behavioural addictions due to his unmatched set of skills, his ability to communicate ideas clearly and flexibly to different audiences, his unparalleled work ethic and dedication. With his body of work and grasp of novel ideas, he has inspired numerous researchers across the world, including myself.  Mark and I have co-authored dozens of papers over the last decade, including peer-reviewed publications, various reports, papers in the trade press and the news media, book chapters and a book. He has had a significant intellectual contribution to all of our co-authored publications, including developing the original ideas, writing the papers, editing them across multiple iterations, and revising them following reviewers’ and editors’ comments. He has furthermore contributed his invaluable expertise to the publication process of our co-authored work, including evaluations of particular journals, and supporting the work’s impact and visibility across various channels.  Mark has always been a thoughtful, honest and responsive mentor whose expertise, loyalty and integrity are second to none. I am very grateful for his indispensable contributions and his steadfast mentorship across the many years we have had the pleasure to work together”

Marta Beranuy Fargues (Spain)

“I am writing to confirm that [Dr. Griffiths] made a considerable contribution to the article that we have published together this year”.

Doris Malischnig (Austria)

“I can only say that there is no one who contributed so much to the published articles and from whom I have learned more than from him. He actively contributed to every paper, rewrote, supplemented, improved, and after the submission helped me to answer the questions of the reviewers correctly. For example for our paper, which was published in January (2020), I have more than 100 emails that we exchanged. This paper has been radically revised twice, it took us 3 years to get the paper published!! He accompanied the process so intensively, answered questions and suggested and supplemented evaluations, and motivated me to keep to it. I even asked him to be the first author on the paper. His input was significantly larger than mine. He refused! Without Mark Griffiths, neither the scientific knowledge nor the practical impact would be where they are today. For that he would actually have to be knighted. He works day and night, namely to help us and science that the world looks better for problem gamblers or other addicts and their families. If you need evidence, I have saved all emails and his related work on the articles we published together, because it helps me to learn from them afterwards”.

Supakyada Sapthiang (UK)

“I’m surprised to see this blog is by an Oxford professor as its highly speculative. You made substantial intellectual contributions to my papers for which I am very grateful”

Alexandra Torres-Roriguez (Spain)

I would confirm that all of authorships of Dr. Mark Griffiths in our papers were correct. Dr. Mark was my thesis co-director, and I attended NTU when I was doing my International PhD. We did more than ten versions regarding the papers. Not only that, he taught me important aspects of the publications, he provided complete sections, he made substantial and key contributions, and he stayed with me throughout the process involved. [Dr. Griffiths] has been one of my best and most dedicated teachers, from whom I have learned a lot. Always willing to help me kindly with my thesis and with anything related to my research career”

Christian Montag (Germany)

“I can tell you my experience from one paper, I published this week with Dr. Mark Griffiths [in ‘Frontiers in Psychology’] Dr. Cornelia Sindermann and I led with this paper, but I can assure you that all co-authors substantially worked over the paper and gave important intellectual input. I liked this cooperation, because the input was very valuable and the work-pace rapid”.

Hibai Lopez-Gonzalez (Spain)

[Dr. Griffiths] was my mentor during my two-year (2016-2018) postdoctoral research fellowship at Nottingham Trent University. We had one-hour meetings almost every week, in which we discussed my research ideas and prospective papers. He provided general guidance most of the time but not once he refused to get his hands dirty and engage with monotonous data analysis…We have co-authored 22 refereed papers together, if my calculations are not mistaken. He would always offer a critical assessment of the manuscripts I sign as leading author, including dozens of editing tips and modifications as track changes to the word documents I share with him. The turnaround time is usually 12-48 hours, including holiday periods and weekends. In many of those times [Dr. Griffiths] is abroad for work but his response time is usually unaffected by it. This has also been the case in one occasion in which he was hospitalised. I would like to add that I have never published a paper with his name on it without him contributing to it. I think I’m not alone in wondering how Mark does the trick. I don’t have the answer to this question, but I guess a combination of neurodivergence (for example, for most of his life he slept 3 hours a night) and perfectionism/obsessiveness (he would edit every single comma, capital letter, italic and space from the reference list) could work as a preliminary hypothesis”.

Colin O’Gara (Ireland)

“There is no question that [Dr. Griffiths] has contributed materially to our recent publications in the area of behavioural addictions in Irish populations. I first met Mark at a conference in 2012 in Dublin and always wanted to collaborate with him.  He is an excellent colleague and we are immensely grateful for his time and generous contributions. We would be very much hoping for Mark’s continued input in future”.

Amir Pakpour (Iran)

“I confirm that my collaborations with [Dr. Griffiths] is meaningful. [Dr. Griffiths] collaborates with me in my works in computational framework, drafting manuscripts, results interpretations, and revising [papers] critically for important intellectual content”.

Md. Abdullah Mamun (Bangladesh)

“I am just writing to confirm that Professor Griffiths made major written and intellectual contributions to all the papers that I have co-authored with him this year (and last year). Whenever I send him a draft of a paper he typically works on three or four drafts before submission. I have learned so much from him over the past three years and he has helped rise my research profile in Bangladesh enormously”.

Tzipi Buchman-Wildbaum (Israel)

“I confirm that Mark Griffiths had a significant contribution to the publications we co-authored. Mark had meaningful contribution to the writing and editing of the papers. He also provided supervision, guidance, and professional feedback from his extensive theoretical knowledge in the field of mental health and psychopathologies. He was involved and devoted during the whole publication process and I’m grateful for his help and involvement in my work.”

Kamrul Hsan (Bangladesh)

“I am writing to you about Mark Griffiths’ co-authorship on our papers. I would like to inform you that Mark Griffiths was a co-author on some of our papers…He contributed to [the papers] both intellectually and physically writing, and manuscript preparation. He is a very hard working researcher and supportive to young researchers”.

Niklas Hopfgartner (Austria)

“I can confirm that Mark always provides valuable input in our research / papers, both through physical writing and discussing ideas / methods / results”.

Tyrone Burleigh (UK)

“I would like to share my experience with [Dr. Griffiths] as my co-author. The number of articles I have published is relatively small. However, as an early career researcher Mark’s input on my papers has been an invaluable contribution. In my experience, he has always added a layer of expertise and critical insight into my papers (both physically and intellectually), and his contribution has been anything but minimal. Mark is an extremely dedicated researcher and he has always gone that extra mile to help me in my work. I have seen no faults in his work ethic or integrity when I have had the pleasure of collaborating with him”.

Elizabeth Killick (UK)

“I have co-authored two papers with Mark Griffiths during my PhD at Nottingham Trent University (so far). Mark contributed significantly to both papers”.

Li Li (China)

I confirm to you that Dr. Griffiths’ co-authorships on our papers were as a direct result of intellectually and physically writing and contributing to each of the papers he has co-published with me. In our papers, Dr. Griffiths and me analysed and interpreted the data. In addition, he also edited and contributed to the revised papers. I believe that he is an energetic and productive scholar”.

Arnaldo Rodríguez León (Cuba)

“I’m a Senior Cuban Cardiologist with 25 years’ experience in clinical cardiology…I decided to write to Professor Griffiths because he is and outstanding authority in this field [of social media addiction] and I had an original idea about it. We began to write the paper and sent each other more than 20 emails…I assure youProfessor Mark Griffiths wrote more than 50% of the paper. At the same time he continuously checked references, asked me questions about my draft, and when the article was almost ready he still was able to check some ideas. I’m deeply impressed because he works as a machine!!!”

Bruno Schivinski (Australia)

“I am writing you regarding the query initiated by Professor Bishop…I have co-authored and published with Professor Mark Griffiths three papers since 2018. I confirm his co-authorships on our papers. Professor Griffiths contributed to each of the papers both intellectually and by writing them. Furthermore, I would like to mention that Professor Griffiths is a role model in our profession”.

Aslam Mia (Malaysia)

“I have published one [article] recently with [Prof. Griffiths]. I would like to confirm that I am the one who approached [him] to be a co-author…due to his vast knowledge and expertise in the related field. Prof. Griffiths significantly contributed (e.g., strengthened the arguments, rewrote and revised the draft and raised several questions to be addressed…He did at least two rounds of revision before sending the paper to the journal. I have worked with around 25 researchers from at least 10 countries. And honestly speaking, I have not found anyone like Prof. Griffiths who is so active when it comes to joint research. I was mesmerized by his time management in delivering the joint work. It is sad to learn that someone is accusing him because he has published a lot”.

Shahla Ostovar (Iran)

“I have known Prof. Griffiths since 2014 and we have some publications together and two of them were published in 2020. Our publications in 2020 is a chain of hard working starting from 2016 with the basic idea from all authors including Prof. Griffiths. For writing each manuscript we had lots of communications with him. He really is more than a supervisor and co-author. He point-by-point guided us in both data analysis and writing to reach an acceptable manuscript. Then we tried some different journals to find a suitable house for our manuscripts. Both of our 2020 publications were reviewed over a long period of time and took more than 6 months to get acceptance. He is one of the key theoreticians in internet addiction and other addictions. It is obvious lots of researchers want to work with…[He is] generous in support [of] polishing ideas, analysis of data, and in writing the papers. Unfortunately, there are some jealous people who do not like Prof. Griffiths’ achievements…I can assure you that he contributed greatly to all my papers with him including the 2 published this year”.

Remya Lathabhavan (India)

“Dr Mark Griffiths contributed in discussion of the initial idea, writing, review and clarification on each other’s contribution, selection of journal, submission formalities and responses to reviewers for our work. He is a hardworking and sincere researcher who is reachable over mail any point of time for providing research advice and research communication for an early researcher like me”.

Zsolt Horvath (Hungary)

“I have two publications where [Dr. Griffiths] is listed as a co-author…I can confirm that in both cases Mark significantly contributed to writing and revising the manuscript”.

Alvaro Sicilia (Spain)

“After becoming aware of the controversy surrounding Professor Bishop’s blog about Professor Mark Griffiths, I am writing this email…I met Professor Griffiths in October 2018 while on sabbatical at Nottingham Trent University, which ended in October 2019. I recognise that Professor Griffiths’ production is prolific and I understand that this may attract the attention of other academics. However, once I shared a year of work with Professor Griffiths, I was able to see the high level of dedication to his work and the wide network of collaborations he has with researchers from all over the world…What I would like to put on record is that I can confirm that [he] has contributed to each of the articles that we have published together since 2019. His contribution has been varied and always enriching. In some cases, he has served as a critical expert incorporating substantial ideas into the study and reviewing the first drafts. On other occasions, he has contributed to the idea and design of the study itself, in addition to the process of writing the text. In any case, in many of the works published with Professor Griffiths, the tasks carried out by each of the co-authors have been made explicit….I do not want to end without expressing my appreciation for the contributions that Professor Griffiths has made in each of the works published or in preparation. Both for me and for my research team at the University of Almeria, it has been a pleasure to work together with Mark Griffiths and we hope that our collaboration can be maintained over time”.

David Fernandez (UK)

“I have, in total, two co-authored publications with [Dr. Griffiths]…I can attest that Mark contributed significantly to both of these publications, such that he unequivocally deserves co-authorship on them”.

Chung-Ying Lin (Hong Kong)

“I am writing this letter to confirm that [Dr. Griffiths] has contributed significantly to all my publications co-authored with him. I have also kept the records that can indicate Mark’s contribution”.

Zeyang Yang (Hong Kong)

“I confirm that Prof Mark Griffiths contributed to all our co-authored papers carefully with detailed corrections, feedback, and concerns. Mark contributed to all parts of our papers from Abstract to Conclusion with detailed comments on the sources of background information, theoretical and empirical literature discussing, data analysis selection, methods and results presentation, results discussion, research implications and even spelling errors”.

Zsolt Demetrovics (Hungary)

“I can confirm of course that [Dr. Griffiths’] co-authorship in our co-authored papers was in each case a result of [his] intellectual contribution and physical writing. Jack Grove has already approached me as well and wants to know more about the JBA review process”.

Halley Pontes (Australia)

“I am writing to you to give you some perspective about Professor Mark Griffiths in relation to the email you sent him regarding the blog entry by Professor Dorothy Bishop. Professor Mark Griffiths is one of the main founders (considered to be the founder in Europe) of a very controversial and highly relevant (in terms of public health) field of research. Professor Griffiths has been publishing his work on behavioural and technological addictions since the early 1990s, and as such, is recognised widely by his peers as one of the founders of the technological addictions field. Professor Griffiths has an extremely impressive network of collaborators from numerous countries and this is the main reason he is a prolific researcher (in addition to his hard work). I have worked with Professor Griffiths for nearly 10 years now, and we have co-authored a total of 74 research outputs together…Not only have I worked collaboratively with Professor Griffiths remotely (online), but also in a close context during the time I have lived in the UK where I would meet Professor Griffiths weekly at Nottingham Trent University. Of all the 74 published outputs I have with Professor Griffiths, all of them received substantial intellectual contribution and input from him. Professor Griffiths is not someone who gets his name on papers without having made a robust intellectual contribution. I can also attest to Professor Griffith’s high ethical standards and academic integrity as a result of working with him for so many years”.

Frank Buono (USA)

“I have been working with Dr. Griffiths for 5 years now, and during this time every manuscript that we have published together, he has provided direct insight in accordance to the publishing rights associated with American Psychological Association, and the respective journal’s by-laws…In [our] latest manuscript, ‘Gaming and Gaming Disorder: Mediation Model Gender, Salience, Age of Gaming Onset and Time Spent Gaming’, Dr. Griffiths as senior author provided 5 edits of the manuscript, after the manuscript was rejected from the first journal. He also, provided feedback in constructing letter of response to the editors”.

Alex Sumich (UK)

“I have known [Prof. Griffiths] for 10 years now, and have published several manuscripts with him…In all of these, he has contributed substantially in terms of study plan and writing…In [the cases I have co-published with him, Prof. Griffiths] attended (if not led) several meetings leading up to the first draft of the manuscripts, and based on his expertise and experience actively contributed to the planning of the studies through several discussions. In all cases, the initial drafts of the manuscripts were then written by the doctoral students. These were then circulated around co-authors for further input. In all cases, he made substantial and valuable suggestions for improving the manuscripts, typically contributing to 2-3 drafts prior to final submission. Following submission, each of these manuscripts received peer feedback and the research team discussed our response to issues raised. Thus, in my experience Prof Griffiths has very much earnt his position as co-author on all of these publications. [Prof Griffiths] has previously described himself as a ‘writing addict’. Writing is certainly his passion and he is incredible efficient at it. He has developed an excellent international collaborative network…Based on my own experience of working with Mark, I would feel confident that he would have contributed significantly to every publication that carries his name. He is a highly conscientious academic…Much of his work is in addiction research, and as such would naturally be published in specialist journals for addiction. Mark is also a very talented teacher, and mentor”.

David Columb (Ireland)

“I have worked with [Dr. Griffiths] on five published and one soon to be published article since I commenced research in the field of behavioural addiction about three years ago. Dr. Griffiths informed me about your upcoming article in relation to prolific publishing and a query on the credibility of Mark’s co-authored pieces. In every piece of research, I have worked with [Dr. Griffiths] on, he has contributed substantially to each one. I am only new to the research field and without his input on each paper we’ve done together, I imagine some of them would not be at publishing standard. It can actually be quite a chastening experience talking to Dr. Griffiths about our research topics and ideas as he can end up fixing the majority of it! I personally have never questioned Dr. Griffiths’ output as I have received emails on weekends and odd hours from him with multiple corrections and suggestions to papers, which shows someone dedicated to research and helping others with their research and would go some way to explaining his prolific publishing. He is also very willing to provide guidance on research whenever I would need some”.

Maria Ciccarelli (Italy)

“I am writing you to confirm that Dr. Griffiths’ co-authorship on my papers is the result of his contribution to papers I have co-published with him”.

Sabbir Ahmed (Bangladesh)

“Professor Griffiths is one of the best researchers and supervisors I have ever seen in my life. I have three co-authored papers with him. In every paper, he has significantly contributed from research design to manuscript writing. He is very hardworking and I am really happy to work with him. His scholastic guidance helps me to conduct some interesting research and in the future, I want to work more with him”.

Kagan Kircaburan (UK)

“Professor Griffiths’ co-authorships on all my papers were as a direct result of his intellectual and physical contributions. His contributions (in literature reviews, methods, analyses, and discussion sections) made each and every paper that I’ve published with him much better and publishable in good journals”.

Melina Throuvala (UK)

“I have been working with Professor Griffiths as a PhD student since September 2016 and am now a Lecturer at Nottingham Trent University in the Psychology Department. I would like to confirm that Professor Griffiths has contributed significantly to all of our co-authored papers. Working closely with him, I have witnessed first-hand his contribution to papers he co-authors. I do understand that the sheer number of publications can raise questions. However, never in my life have I met such a prolific author as Mark. His collaborations are a testament to his work ethic and expertise in this field, which he is diligently serving the last 30 years”.

Zhaojun Teng (China)

“As a lead author, this year I co-authored and published two articles [with Prof. Griffiths]. I confirm that he contributed to these works, and should be list as a co-author, according to CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy). Each work, Prof. Griffiths paid much time and attention to work on the manuscript. From the draft writing, rejected by the journal, revising, and proof to publication, we needed at least 10 rounds of revision. I keep the email records. If needed, I can provide every version of these two articles”.

Gabriel Bonilla Zorita (UK)

“Personally, I can confirm that Mark as my supervisor has contributed a great deal with our publication. He is an incredibly dedicated academic and those who are near to him know that he put in hours of work like no other academic. I have no doubt of his integrity and legitimate contribution to all his co-authored publications and work”.

Paolo Soraci (Italy)

“I confirm that Professor Griffiths has contributed to my research (for example, reviewing the research, proposing ideas and changes, checking the bibliography, arranging the research layout and many other things). He has my most sincere regards”.

Saiful Islam (Bangladesh)

“I have co-authored with Dr. Griffiths. He is very supportive and contributes a direct result of intellectually and physically writing and editing to each of the papers. I really appreciated his extensive edits and guidance. Without physically writing and editing, he wouldn’t have been be a co-author with me”.

Ivan Ukhov and Johan Bjurgert (Sweden)

“We have had the pleasure to work with Professor Griffiths since around March 2019. In October 2019, we submitted a manuscript to the ‘Journal of Gambling Studies’, and in June 2020, it was accepted for publication. The contribution of Professor Griffiths to the work in question was substantial. We had numerous e-mail conversations, discussing the essence of the study and the delivery of the results by together iterating over the manuscript until convergence”.

Deena Dsouza (India)

I really appreciate [Dr. Griffiths’] contribution as a co-author in the recent publication on the topic pertaining to online gaming…I am stating without any hesitation that Dr. Griffiths contributed intellectually and physically in writing the manuscript, until the last stage of proofreading. The manuscript has been the combined effort of all the authors. As an expert in this field, his contribution significantly impacted the manuscript. It was my pleasure working with him. His intellectual contribution, hard work, and passion towards research is appreciated undoubtedly”.

Alan Emond (UK)

“I am one of Prof. Griffiths’ collaborators. He has been advising me on the ALSPAC Gambling Study (based on Children of the Nineties cohort) for over 10 years,  was a co-applicant on the grant which funded the analysis and contributed to the study design and analytic strategy. He edited and approved the report and papers arising from the study. One of the papers has been accepted by IJMHA, but was subject to a full peer review, and I received two critical reviews from gambling experts which I responded to in the revised manuscript. As far as I am concerned, Mark has been an excellent collaborator and has contributed intellectually to the research and fulfilled his responsibilities as a co-author”.

Nazire Hamutoğlu (Turkey)

“I would like to thank Dr. Griffiths for his contribution towards our article. I would kindly like to inform you that Dr. Griffiths materially contributed to the publication we co-authored. He is one of the best co-authors [and] made a marvellous contribution”.

Francesca Gioia (Italy)

During my PhD course, supervised by Prof Valentina Boursier, I spent three months at the Nottingham Trent University. Prof. Mark Griffiths was my tutor during my PhD visit, kindly and willingly welcoming me at his lab, from September to November 2019. I can definitely assure you that Prof. Griffiths concretely contributed to critically revising the co-authored papers concerning my PhD research project”.

Valentina Boursier (Italy)

“Concerning my papers that Prof. Griffiths co-authored, I can absolutely confirm that he concretely contributed revising them critically. These works are part of our collaboration on my PhD student’s (Francesca Gioia) research project, that Dr. Gioia conducted with me in Italy and Prof. Griffiths supervised during her visiting at the Nottingham Trent University”.

Filipa Calado (UK)

“I have been working with Professor Griffiths since 2015, firstly as a PhD student, and now as a lecturer in Nottingham Trent University. I would like to confirm that Mark has strongly contributed to the papers that I am the first author. He actively contributed to the design of the studies, choice of the variables, theoretical background, and writing of the papers, among other things. Working with him has enabled me to deepen my knowledge on the field of behavioural addictions, and to start a career on this topic”.

Michael Auer (Austria)

“I have been working with Dr. Griffiths since 2010 and we published our first paper together in 2011. Since then we have published at least 30 papers together…I believe that our papers are quite complex as they are all empirical based on real-world data from various online gambling companies. My speciality is gambling research as I am also commercially involved in the industry. I can assure you that Mark is highly involved in all the publications and we at least run through five iterations until we are ready to submit a paper. So far we have managed to publish every paper that we worked on. I can imagine that it is quite unbelievable how much he publishes, but I’d say it is somehow his superpower. Everybody has one or more strengths and writing papers is for sure his!”

Francesco López-Fernández (Spain)

“I confirm the co-authorship of Mark in our paper due to his relevant contribution. He deeply reviewed the study several times providing important changes and commentaries during my research stay at Nottingham Trent University”.

Bernadette Kun (Hungary)

“I confirm that Professor Mark Griffiths intellectually and physically wrote and contributed to the papers he has co-published with me. I confirm that his work was very important and useful in our common papers”.

Sanju George (India)

“I have written/published with Professor Griffiths, both during my time in the UK and since my return to India. I can confidently state that in all the papers we have written/published together, Prof Griffiths has actively and fully contributed materially and intellectually”.

Andrzej Cudo (Poland)

“I would like to confirm that Professor Griffiths was co-author of my published paper, and his direct intellectual contribution and physical writing had primarily concerned the theoretical background and discussion related to the obtained results presented in my paper”.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Gambling with someone’s reputation (Part 1)

I have always adhered to Oscar Wilde’s dictum that “there is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about”. However, after all the things that have been alleged about me and my work over the last few weeks on social media, I have little option but to make some formal responses, especially now that I have been asked to comment by national media. I’ve always been advised by my mentors and by those people I trust not to fight battles on social media. This is going to be the first of a number of brief statements I will make concerning various allegations that have been made about me.

My first statement relates to a blog by Dorothy Bishop had written about editorial practices relating to a couple of the journals I regularly publish in (namely the Journal of Behavioral Addictions [JBA] and the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction [IJMHA]) entitled ‘Percent by most prolific’ author score: a red flag for possible editorial bias’. The journals named have done nothing wrong and neither have I. Bishop appeared to be questioning some of their editorial practices. A statement by the JBA has now appeared on Bishop’s blog.

In addition to the statement by the publisher of the JBA, I was also given information about my own papers submitted to the journal. This information was supplied to me but does not appear in the formal response. The publisher’s analysis led to a number of observations.

The first thing to say “in contrast to the statement in the blogpost, the dates when a manuscript was received by the journal, as well as the dates of receiving all the revisions, and finally the date of acceptance are publishedon the front page of all JBA papers from the very first issue.”

Using these dates anyone can check how fast the final accepted papers are going through the review process. In the case of the papers I have authored or co-authored, on average, 110 days passed between the original submission and the final decision. For the accepted papers, the shortest period was 32 days and the longest one 349 days (decisions about rejection were usually made sooner). In contrast to the statement in Bishop’s post, this is even longer than the overall mean of 91.51 days for all papers submitted to JBA.

The JBA’s ‘Editorial Manager’ system shows that there were 92 papers I had authored/co-authored that have been submitted to JBA since the journal’s inception in 2012 (and in most cases I was a co-author rather than being the first author or corresponding author). Of these 92 papers, 61 of these papers were eventually accepted, 25 rejected, and further two were withdrawn (and four are still under review). This means the acceptance rate of papers I authored or co-authored was 66.3% acceptance rate, compared to 40.7% for all JBA submissions in the system. The acceptance rate is higher than for all papers. However, I am personally not surprised given my and my co-authors’ standing in the behavioral addiction field. According to the Web of Science, the average number of citations papers that I have published in the JBA is 22.77, compared to 13.88 for all JBA papers.    

The publisher of the JBA also noted that: “Regarding the review process, we have to emphasize that in accordance with the commitment on the journal’s website, all the submissions (including both those co-authored by Prof. Griffiths and those not) were peer reviewed by at least two peer reviewers (and sometimes by more).”

Bishop also seemed to suggest that because I was on the editorial boards of these journals that I shouldn’t be publishing in them. The JBA publisher noted:

“We do not think that a researcher should not publish in a journal just because he/she has an editorial role in that certain journal because he/she collaborates with any of the editors. That happens in the case of most journals. Similarly, in the case of the JBA, many of the editorial board members and the associate editors (including the editor-in-chief) publishes papers in the journal, which we believe is acceptable and welcome. These researchers are the top scientists of this field and that’s why they were chosen to be part of the editorial system. However, this should not exclude them from contributing to the field via JBA. The important issue here, is that the review process must be independent which, based on our investigation is fully secured in the case of JBA.”.

I don’t have the statistics for the IJMHA but my guess is that they would be in the same ballpark for submission of papers that I have authored/co-authored.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Making play while the sun shines: Online games can be a great environment for friendship and social support

A couple of weeks ago, I was commissioned by The Conversation to write an article on the social benefits of online gaming in times of lockdown due to coronavirus-19 (COVID-19). Today’s blog features the original article I write rather than the version that was eventually published. The published article can be read here).

As people all around the world begin to self-isolate and increasingly live life indoors as the spread of COVID-19 widens, there has been much discussion in the mass media about how individuals must use modern technologies to socialize and keep in touch with each other. While much of the conversation appears to focus on social media, Skype, and FaceTime, another popular way in which individuals can do this is through online gaming. Here, gamers can socialize with others online and create a sense of community and wellbeing. Most gamers value the socialization aspects very highly and are among the main motivations for playing, particularly when it comes to engaging in ‘massively multiplayer online games’.

I first became interested in the psychology of videogames while I was doing a PhD on slot machine addiction back in the late 1980s. I used to spend a lot of time doing observational research in amusement arcades up and down the country and I soon realized there was a lot of psychological, social, and behavioural overlap between arcade slot machine players and arcade videogame players and developed player typologies based on playing behaviour and socialization characteristics. I never could have imagined back when I started my gaming research over 30 years ago that gaming would evolve into what it has become today. Over the past three decades, gaming has become more and more social and many players develop good friendships with the people they meet with online.

In a previous article for The Conversation I wrote about many of the positive aspects of gaming. There is now lots of research showing the many benefits of gaming and I have written on most of these including educational benefits, therapeutic and medical benefits, cognitive benefits, and social benefits. While I have probably published more papers on gaming addiction than any other academic I am not at all anti-gaming and I have always advocated that the advantages of gaming far outweigh the disadvantages.

In 2003, I published the first empirical study concerning online gaming and debunked the stereotypical myth that online gamers were socially withdrawn teenagers. Among a sample of over 11,000 Everquest players, most were adults, and 23% said that their favourite aspect of playing the game was grouping and interacting with other people (23%), and a further 10% said it was chatting with friends and guild mates (10%). We followed up with a study a year later and found almost identical results.

In 2007, I carried out a study with Helena Cole that specifically examined social interactions in online gaming that received worldwide media attention (and has also become one of my most cited studies). We surveyed over 900 massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) players from 45 different countries and found that MMORPGs were highly socially interactive environments providing the opportunity to create strong friendships and emotional relationships. The study showed MMORPGs can be extremely social games, with high percentages of gamers making life-long friends and partners.

Approximately three-quarters of both males and females said they had made good friends within the game (and the average number of ‘good friends’ in the game was seven). Many players went on to meet up in real life with others they had first ‘met’ in the game. One of the reasons we got so much press publicity about our study was that 10% of the participants reported having at least one romantic relationship with someone they had met in-game. We concluded that online gaming allowed players to express themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance, gender, sexuality, and/or age. MMORPGs also offered a place where teamwork, encouragement, and fun could be experienced. A gamer in one of my later published case studies ended up marrying someone he met in the online game World of Warcraft.

According to the latest gaming industry statistics, 65% of adults play videogames across different types of hardware (60% on smartphones, 52% on a personal computer, and 49% on a dedicated console). What might be surprising is that among gamers, the gender split is narrowing – 46% are female (average age 34 years) and 54% are male (average age 32 years). One of the most significant findings is that 63% of gamers play with others and that many players get social support from the gaming communities that they are in. Other research has shown that there appears to be no difference in general friendships between gamers and non-gamers and that social online gaming time increases the probability of finding online friends.

Gaming often gets bad publicity because most media coverage tends to concentrate on the minority of gamers who play to such an extent that it compromises all other areas of their life (i.e., ‘gaming disorder’) but we have to remember that millions of gamers play every day and many do so for the many positives it brings. Friendship, social support, and being in a like-minded community are just some of the reasons that online gaming is going to be so popular at a time when we are being asked to stay indoors as much as possible.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Cole, H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Social interactions in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing gamers. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 10, 575-583.

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). Amusement machine playing in childhood and adolescence: A comparative analysis of video games and fruit machines. Journal of Adolescence, 14, 53-73.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002).  The educational benefits of videogames Education and Health, 20, 47-51.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2003).  The therapeutic use of videogames in childhood and adolescence. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 547-554.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Can videogames be good for your health?  Journal of Health Psychology, 9, 339-344.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Video games and health. British Medical Journal, 331, 122-123.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2005).  The therapeutic value of videogames. In J. Goldstein & J. Raessens (Eds.), Handbook of Computer Game Studies (pp. 161-171). Boston: MIT Press.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Adolescent video game playing: Issues for the classroom. Education Today: Quarterly Journal of the College of Teachers, 60(4), 31-34.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The role of context in online gaming excess and addiction: Some case study evidence. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 119-125.

Griffiths, M.D. (2019). The therapeutic and health benefits of playing videogames. In: Attrill-Smith, A., Fullwood, C. Keep, M. & Kuss, D.J. (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Cyberpsychology. (pp. 485-505). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffiths, M.D., Davies, M.N.O. & Chappell, D. (2003). Breaking the stereotype: The case of online gaming. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 81-91.

Griffiths, M.D., Davies, M.N.O. & Chappell, D. (2004).  Online computer gaming: A comparison of adolescent and adult gamers. Journal of Adolescence, 27, 87-96.

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J., & Ortiz de Gortari, A. (2017). Videogames as therapy: An updated selective review of the medical and psychological literature. International Journal of Privacy and Health Information Management, 5(2), 71-96.

Griffiths, M. D., Kuss, D.J., & Ortiz de Gortari, A. (2013). Videogames as therapy: A review of the medical and psychological literature. In I. M. Miranda & M. M. Cruz-Cunha (Eds.), Handbook of research on ICTs for healthcare and social services: Developments and applications (pp.43-68). Pennsylvania: IGI Global.

Nuyens, F., Kuss, D.J., Lopez-Fernandez, O., & Griffiths, M.D. (2019). The experimental analysis of non-problematic video gaming and cognitive skills: A systematic review. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17, 389-414.

To infinity (and beyond): The benefits of endless running videogames

Last week I was contacted by a journalist at the Red Bulletin Magazine who was “looking for an expert in gaming psychology to talk to for a piece on the mental benefits of endless running games, i.e.  ‘the gameplay building strong reward learning in players’. It should be a fun and practical guide…Just let me know if you’d be interested.” I was interested. I had been teaching in the morning so I didn’t get the email until a couple of hours after it had been sent. I scribbled down a few notes, got back in touch, but by the time I did, the journalist had already interviewed someone else for the feature. Since I’d already made a few bullet points, I thought I would use them for the basis of a blog. (I really don’t like things going to waste).

Although much of my research examines problematic gaming, I am not anti-gaming (and never have been), and I have published many papers on the benefits of gaming including therapeutic benefits, educational benefits, and psychological (cognitive) benefits (see ‘Further reading’ below). Some of you reading this may not know what endless running games are, so here is the Wikipedia definition from its entry on platform games:

“‘Endless running’ or ‘infinite running’ games are platform games in which the player character is continuously moving forward through a usually procedurally generated, theoretically endless game world. Game controls are limited to making the character jump, attack, or perform special actions. The object of these games is to get as far as possible before the character dies. Endless running games have found particular success on mobile platforms. They are well-suited to the small set of controls these games require, often limited to a single screen tap for jumping. Games with similar mechanics with automatic forward movement, but where levels have been pre-designed, or procedurally generated to have a set finish line, are often called “auto-runners” to distinguish them from endless runners”.

Endless running games are incredibly popular and played by millions of individuals around the world (including myself on occasions). One of the best things about endless running games is that because they can be played on smartphones and other small hand-held devices they can be played anywhere at any time. Like any good game, the rules are easy to understand, the gameplay is deceptively simple, but in the end, it takes skill to succeed. The simplicity of endless running games is one of the key reasons for their global success in terms player numbers. For successful games, the mechanics should be challenging but not impossible. Such games can lead to what has been described as a state of ‘flow’ (coined by Mihaly Csíkszentmihályi in his seminal books Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience [1990] and Flow: The Psychology of Happiness [1992]).

With the flow experience, a game player derives intense enjoyment by being immersed in the gaming experience, the challenges of the game are matched by the player’s skills, and the player’s sense of time is distorted so that time passes without it being noticed. For some video game players, this may then mean repeatedly seeking out similar experiences on a regular basis to the extent that they can escape from their concerns in the ‘real world’ by being continually engrossed in a flow-inducing world. However, something like flow – viewed largely as a positive psychological phenomenon – may be less positive in the long-term for some video game players if they are craving the same kind of emotional ‘high’ that they obtained the last time that they experienced flow when playing a video game.

Flow has been proposed (by Jackson and Eklund, 2006) as comprising nine elements that include: (i) striking a balance between the challenges of an activity and one’s abilities; (ii) a merging of performance of actions with one’s self-awareness; (iii) possessing clear goals; (iv) gaining unambiguous feedback on performance; (v) having full concentration on the task in hand; (vi) experiencing a sense of being in control; (vii) losing any form of self-consciousness; (viii) having a sense of time distorted so that time seems to speed up or slow down; and (ix) the undergoing of an auto-telic experience (e.g., the goals are generated by the person and not for some anticipated future benefit). Endless running games are one of many types of videogame that can result in ‘flow’ experiences (which for the vast majority of gamers is going to result in something more positive (psychologically) than negative.

There are many studies showing that playing video games can improve reaction times and hand-eye co-ordination. For example, research has shown that spatial visualisation ability, such as mentally rotating and manipulating two- and three-dimensional objects, improves with videogame playing. Again, endless running videogames rely very heavily on hand-eye co-ordination and fast reaction to on-screen events. In this specific area, I see endless running games as having nothing but positive benefits in terms of improving hand-eye co-ordination skills, reflexes, and attention spans.

Although I’m not a neuroscientist or a neuropsychologist, I know that on a neurobiological level, when we engage in pleasurable activity, our bodies produce its own opiate-like neurochemicals in the form of endorphins and dopamine. The novelty aspects of endless running games will for many players result in the production of neurochemical pleasure which is rewarding and reinforcing for the gamer.

I also believe that endless running games have an appeal that crosses many demographic boundaries, such as age, gender, ethnicity, or educational attainment. They can be used to help set goals and rehearse working towards them, provide feedback, reinforcement, self-esteem, and maintain a record of behavioural change in the form of personal scores. Beating one’s own personal high scores or having higher scores than our friends and fellow gamers can also be psychologically rewarding.

Because video games can be so engaging, they can also be used therapeutically. For instance, research has consistently shown that videogames are excellent cognitive distractors and can help reduce pain. Because I have a number of chronic and degenerative health conditions, I play a number of cognitively-engrossing casual games because when my mind is 100% engaged in an activity I don’t feel any pain whatsoever. Again, endless running games tick this particular box for me (and others). Also, on a personal level, I am time-poor because I work so hard in my job. Endless running games are ideal for individuals like myself who simply don’t have the time to engage in playing massively multiplayer online games that can take up hours every day but will quite happily keep myself amused and pain-free on my commute into work on the bus.

As I have pointed out in so many of my research papers and populist writings over the years, is that the negative consequences of playing almost always involve a minority of individuals that are excessive video game players. There is little evidence of serious acute adverse effects on health from moderate play, endless running games included.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. New York: Harper and Row

Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1992). Flow: The psychology of happiness. London: Random House.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002).  The educational benefits of videogames Education and Health, 20, 47-51.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2003).  The therapeutic use of videogames in childhood and adolescence. Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 547-554.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Can videogames be good for your health?  Journal of Health Psychology, 9, 339-344.

Griffiths, M.D. (2005). Video games and health. British Medical Journal, 331, 122-123.

Griffiths, M.D.  (2005).  The therapeutic value of videogames. In J. Goldstein & J. Raessens (Eds.), Handbook of Computer Game Studies (pp. 161-171). Boston: MIT Press.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Adolescent video game playing: Issues for the classroom. Education Today: Quarterly Journal of the College of Teachers, 60(4), 31-34.

Griffiths, M.D. (2019). The therapeutic and health benefits of playing videogames. In: Attrill-Smith, A., Fullwood, C. Keep, M. & Kuss, D.J. (Eds.). The Oxford Handbook of Cyberpsychology. (pp. 485-505). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J., & Ortiz de Gortari, A. (2017). Videogames as therapy: An updated selective review of the medical and psychological literature. International Journal of Privacy and Health Information Management, 5(2), 71-96.

Jackson, S.A. & Eklund, R.C. (2006). The flow scale manual. Morgan Town, WV: Fitness Information Technology.

Nuyens, F., Kuss, D.J., Lopez-Fernandez, O., & Griffiths, M.D. (2019). The experimental analysis of non-problematic video gaming and cognitive skills: A systematic review. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 17, 389-414.

Turning over a new belief: The psychology of superstition

According to Stuart Vyse in his book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, the fallibility of human reason is the greatest single source of superstitious belief. Sometimes referred to as a belief in “magic”, superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings, as well as a belief in astrology, the occult, the paranormal, or ghosts. It was reported by Colin Campbell in the British Journal of Sociology, that approximately one third of the U.K. population are superstitious. The most often reported superstitious behaviours are (i) avoiding walking under ladders, (ii) touching wood, and (iii) throwing salt over one’s shoulder.

My background is in the gambling studies field, so as far as I am concerned, no superstitions are based on facts but are based on what I would call ‘illusory correlations’ (e.g., noticing that the last three winning visits to the casino were all when you wore a particular item of clothing or it was on a particular day of the week). While the observation may be fact-based (i.e., that you did indeed wear a particular piece of clothing), the relationship is spurious.

Superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings. A working definition within our Western society could be a belief that a given action can bring good luck or bad luck when there are no rational or generally acceptable grounds for such a belief. In short, the fundamental feature underlying superstitions is that they have no rational underpinnings.

There is also a stereotypical view that there are certain groups within society who tend to hold more superstitious beliefs than what may be considered the norm. These include those involved with sport, the acting profession, miners, fishermen, and gamblers – many of whom will have superstitions based on things that have personally happened to them or to those they know well. Again, these may well be fact-based but the associations they have experienced will again be illusory and spurious. Most individuals are basically rational and do not really believe in the effects of superstition. However, in times of uncertainty, stress, or perceived helplessness, they may seek to regain personal control over events by means of superstitious belief.

One explanation for how we learn these superstitious beliefs has been suggested by the psychologist B.F. Skinner and his research with pigeons. He noted in a 1948 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, that while waiting to be fed, pigeons adopted some peculiar behaviours. The birds appeared to see a causal relationship between receiving the food and their own preceding behaviour. However, it was merely coincidental conditioning. There are many analogies in the human world – particularly among gamblers. For instance, if a gambler blows on the dice during a game of craps and subsequently wins, the superstitious belief is reinforced through the reward of winning. Another explanation is that as children we are socialized into believing in magic and superstitious beliefs. Although many of these beliefs dissipate over time, children also learn by watching and modelling their behaviour on that of others. Therefore, if their parents or peers touch wood, carry lucky charms, and do not walk under ladders, then children are more likely to imitate that behaviour, and some of these beliefs may be carried forward to later life.

In a paper published in Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, Peter Darke and Jonathan Freedman (1997) suggested that lucky events are, by definition, determined entirely by chance. However, they go on to imply that, although most people would agree with this statement on an intellectual level, many do not appear to behave inaccordance with this belief. In his book Paradoxes of Gambling Behaviour, Willem Wagenaar (1988) proposed that in the absence of a known cause we tend to attribute events to abstract causes like luck and chance. He goes on to differentiate between luck and chance and suggests that luck is more related to an unexpected positive result whereas chance is related to surprising coincidences.

Bernard Weiner, in his book An Attributional Theory of Motivation and Emotion, suggests that luck may be thought of as the property of a person, whereas chance is thought to be concerned with unpredictability. Gamblers appear to exhibit a belief that they have control over their own luck. They may knock on wood to avoid bad luck or carry an object such as a rabbit’s foot for good luck. Ellen Langer argued in her book The Psychology of Control that a belief in luck and superstition cannot only account for causal explanations when playing games of chance, but may also provide the desired element of personal control.

In my own research (with Carolyn Bingham) into superstition among bingo players published in the Journal of Gambling Issues, it was clear that a large percentage of bingo players we surveyed reported beliefs in luck and superstition. However, the findings were varied, with a far greater percentage of players reporting everyday superstitious beliefs rather than beliefs concerned with bingo. Whether or not players genuinely believed they had control over luck is unknown. Having superstitious beliefs may be simply part of the thrill of playing.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Campbell, C. (1996). Half-belief and the paradox of ritual instrumental activism: A theory of modern superstition. British Journal of Sociology, 47(1), 151–166.

Darke, P. R., & Freedman, J. L. (1997). Lucky events and beliefs in luck: Paradoxical effects on confidence and risk-taking. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 378–388.

Griffiths, M.D. & Bingham, C. (2005). A study of superstitious beliefs among bingo players. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Located at: http://jgi.camh.net/index.php/jgi/article/view/3680/3640

Langer, E. J. (1983). The psychology of control. London: Sage.

Skinner, B. F. (1948). “Superstition” in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 168–172.

Thalbourne, M.A. (1997). Paranormal belief and superstition: How large is the association? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 91, 221–226.

Vyse, S. A. (1997). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wagenaar, W. A. (1988). Paradoxes of gambling behaviour. London: Erlbaum.

Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag

Nailed it: A brief look at onychophilia

In a previous blog, I looked at fingernail fetishism. Since writing that article, I’ve had a few individuals get in touch with me to say that they had very specific fingernail fetishes (such as a keen interest in very long nails). As the Kinkly website notes:

“A fingernail fetish can hinge on the nail color, texture, or length. If the fetish hinges on long nails, the fetish is sometimes referred to as onychophilia. For the fingernail fetishist the excitement is in the details, so nail art is given special attention”.

However, a really short article on ‘Lady Zombie’s World of Pain, Pleasure and Sin’ website also notes that onychophilia as a fingernail fetish but says it only refers to long nails (rather than nails more generally):

“Onychophilia is a fetish for extremely long nails (either real or fake) and/or painted fingernails. As with all fetishes, preferences vary! While some fetishists say, ‘The longer, the better,’ many others find them to be repulsive after a certain length”.

In my previous article I mentioned the the only specific case of fingernail fetishism that I found in the academic literature was a 1972 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, by Dr. Austin McSweeny who successfully treated a young male fingernail fetishist using hypnosis (although other sexologists such as Willem Stekel and Martin Kafka had mentioned such a fetish in passing). The same case study was cited by Dr. Jesse Baring in a blog on fingernail fetishism for Scientific American. He noted:

“He could [only] become sexually aroused and experience penile erection by seeing or fantasizing the fingernails of a woman as they were being bitten by her. Occasionally, the mere sight of a woman’s severely bitten fingernails would cause the patient to experience a spontaneous erection … When the patient experienced the proper fetish situation, he could masturbate to the point of ejaculation and experience gratification. This was his only means of expressing his sex drive…The psychotherapist’s request for the man to picture heterosexual intercourse or a vagina in his mind’s eye was enough to make him vomit”.

A 2019 article by Stephen Alexander (‘Onychophilia: Two types of nail fetish’) notes that fingernail fetishes are subsumed within ‘hand partialism’ (which can arguably include other fetishes I have examined including ‘handwear fetishism’ and ‘hands on hips fetishism’). Alexander asserts:

“I think that [fingernail fetishism] deserves critical attention in its own right. For the nails are not like any other part of the hand in that they are not composed of living material; they are made, rather, of a tough protective protein called alpha-keratin. D. H. Lawrence [in his 1963 essay ‘Why the novel matters’] describes his fingernails as ‘ten little weapons between me and an inanimate universe, they cross the mysterious Rubicon between me alive and things […] which are not alive, in my own sense’. Thus, I think there’s something in the claim that what nail (and hair) fetishists are ultimately aroused by is death; that they are, essentially, soft-core necrophiles. Having said that, the human nail as a keratin structure (known as an unguis) is closely related to the claws and hooves of other animals, so I suppose one could just as legitimately suggest a zoosexual origin to the love of fingernails”.

To support his claim that fingernail fetishists are “soft-core necrophiles”, Alexander noted that there had been a recorded case in the 1963 book Perverse Crimes in History: Evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia – from ancient to modern times (by R.E.L. Masters and Eduard Lee) where “an illicit lover derived pleasure from eating the nail trimmings of corpses (necro-onychophagia), thereby lending support to the theory that nail fetishism has a far darker and more ghoulish undercurrent”.

I also learned in Alexander’s article that there is another related paraphilia – amychophilia – which refers to sexual arousal from being scratched (or as Alexander puts it: “a love of the pain [fingernails] can inflict, when grown long and sharp”). I went and checked if amychophilia was in my ‘go to’ book on paraphilias (i.e., Dr. Anil Aggrawal’s Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices) – and it was. Dr. Aggrawal defines amychophilia as “deriving sexual pleasure from being scratched” which technically could mean sexual arousal from being scratched by things other than fingernails (e.g., toenails, back-scratcher) although scratching for most people will be synonymous with fingernail scratching. Given these definitions, I would argue that amychophilia is more akin to masochism than onychophilia because the root of amychophilia is in the feeling provided rather than what is doing the scratching. Alexander also quotes at length from Daphne du Maurier’s short story ‘The Little Photographer’ (from The Birds and Other Stories) and says that one scene in the book describes onychophilia in fetishistic detail”. (I won’t reproduce it here but you can check it out in Alexander’s online article here).

Which brings me to the final article I came across on onychophilia by Liz Lapont on The Naked Advice website. She was writing in response to an email she had received:

I’m a guy with a sexual fetish for long fingernails (not too long, usually the length that people get when they get their nails done). I beat off to pictures of nails and I have conversations with female friends about their nails. I wanted to know if you can make a video about this type of fetish. Seeing as not a lot of people talk about or show interest in this fetish, am I weird?”

Lapont replies that the fetish is both atypical and uncommon but not weird (“as in creepy and in need of psychiatric help”). My own take is that this is a non-normative sexual behaviour but agree with Lapont that there is nothing to worry about if the behaviour causes no problems in the individuals’ lives. She concludes by saying:

“Consult any list of the most common sexual fetishes and nails don’t crack the top 10. However it’s not unheard of, and toenails are often an associated turn-on for men with a fetish for feet. The clinical term for a fingernail fetish is onychophilia. For some, it’s the act of biting the fingernails that turn them on. For others, it might be their extreme length that is most erotic. Hands and nails play a big role even during the most vanilla sex in the world…So it’s not a stretch to see how for some men, fixating on fingernails would be IT for them”.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Alexander, S. (2019). Onychophilia: Notes on two types of nail fetish. Torpedo The Ark. March 18. Located at: http://torpedotheark.blogspot.com/2019/03/onychophilia-notes-on-two-types-of-nail.html

Baring, J. (2013). Bite those nails, baby: A “quick” tale of fingernail Fetishism. Scientific American, August 14. Located at: https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/bering-in-mind/bite-those-nails-baby-a-e2809cquicke2809d-tale-of-fingernail-fetishism/

Baring, J. (2013). Perv: The Sexual Deviant In All Of Us. New York: Scientific American/Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

Kafka, M. (2010). The DSM diagnostic criteria for fetishism. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 357-362.

Kinkly (2020). Fingernails fetish. Located at: https://www.kinkly.com/definition/6664/fingernails-fetish

Lady Zombie (2011). Onychophilia – Long nail fetish. February 4. Located at: http://ladyzombienyc.blogspot.com/2011/02/onychophilia-long-nail-fetish.html

Lapont, L. (2017). Fingernails aren’t just great for back scratching. The Naked Advice, August 21. Located at: https://thenakedadvice.wordpress.com/2017/08/21/fingernails-arent-just-for-great-back-scratching/

Lawrence, D.H. (1985). Why the novel matters. In Steele, B. (Ed.), Study of Thomas Hardy and Other Essays. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Masters, R.E., & Lea, E. (1963). Perverse crimes in history: Evolving concepts of sadism, lust-murder, and necrophilia, from ancient to modern times. New York: Julian Press.

McSweeny, A.J. (1972). Fetishism: Report of a case treated with hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 15, 139-143.

Scorolli, C., Ghirlanda, S., Enquist, M., Zattoni, S. & Jannini, E.A. (2007). Relative prevalence of different fetishes. International Journal of Impotence Research, 19, 432-437.

Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Stekel, W. (1952). Sexual Aberrations: The Phenomena of Fetishism in Relation to Sex (Vol. 1) (Trans., S. Parker). New York: Liveright Publishing Corporation.

Reading by example: The books that inspired my career

This Christmas I managed to do a lot of book reading (most of it being David Bowie-related) and my favourite read was John O’Connell’s Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life (which If I’m nit-picking should actually be the 98 heroes because George Orwell and Anthony Burgess make two appearances each on the list), followed by Will Brooker’s Why Bowie Matters (a book I wish I had wrote because it was written by a Professor of Film and Cultural Studies and is a loose account of an academic spending a whole year trying to live like David Bowie as a piece of research). I also love lists so I thought I’d kick off the New Year with a list of the books that have shaped my academic life. This list was first published by The Psychologist (in 2018) but this blog may give my list a wider readership.

Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of the Addictions (by Jim Orford)

One of the most influential books on my whole career is Jim Orford’s seminal book Excessive Appetites that explored many different behavioural addictions including gambling, sex, and eating (i.e., addictions that don’t involve the ingestion of psychoactive substances). Jim Orford’s books are always worth a read and he writes in an engaging style that I have always admired. It was by chance that I did my PhD at the University of Exeter (1987-1990) where Orford was working at the time and since 2005 we have published many co-authored papers together. While we can agree to disagree on some aspects of how and why people become addicted, Jim will continue to be remembered as a pioneer in the field of behavioural addiction.

The Psychology of Gambling (by Michael Walker)

If there’s one book I’d wish I had written myself, it is this one. I did my PhD on slot machine addiction in adolescence but this book was published shortly after I’d finished and beautifully summarises all the main theories and perspectives on gambling psychology. My PhD would have been a whole lot easier if this book had been published when I first started my research career! I got to know Michael quite well before his untimely death in December 2009 (and he was external PhD examiner to some of my PhD students), and one of my enduring images of him was walking around at gambling conferences with his book clutched in his hand. Some of my colleagues found that a little strange but if I’d have written a book that good I’d have it with me at such events all the time!

Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People for Change (by William R. Miller and Stephen Rollnick)

I reviewed this book for the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (BJCP) back in the early 1990s and concluded by saying that it is a book that should be read by all therapists because its content can be applied to nearly all clinical situations and not just to those individuals with addictive behaviour problems. Motivational interviewing (MI) borrows strategies from cognitive therapy, client-centred counselling, systems theory, and the social psychology of persuasion, and the underlying theme of the book is the issue of ambivalence, and how the therapist can use MI to resolve it and allow the client to build commitment and reach a decision to change. In my most recent research I’ve used the basic tenets of MI in designing personalised messages to give to gamblers while they are gambling online in real time. I’ve now come to the conclusion 25 years after writing my BJCP review that anyone interested in enabling behavioural change should apply the tenets in this book to their work.

The Myth of Addiction (by John B. Davies)

Even though this book was published back in 1992, I still tell my current students that this is a ‘must read’ book. Davies takes a much researched area of social psychology (i.e., attribution theory) and applies it to addiction. The basic message of the book is that people take drugs because they want to and not because they are physiologically addicted. The whole book is written in a non-technical manner and is highly readable and thought provoking. I often use Davies’ term ‘functional attribution’ from this book in my teaching and writings on sex addiction, and apply it to celebrities who use the excuse of ‘sex addiction’ to justify their infidelities.

Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices (by Anil Aggrawal)

Anyone that reads my blog will know that when it comes to the more bizarre side of sexual activity, my ‘go to’ book is Dr. Aggrawal’s book on unusual sexual practices. Others in the sexology field often look down their noses at this book but it is both enjoyable and informative and the kind of book that once you start reading you find it hard to put down again. A lot of academic books on sexual behaviour can be boring and/or impenetrable but this one is the polar opposite. The book also kick-started some of my own recently published research on sexual fetishes and paraphilias.

Small World (by David Lodge)

During my PhD, I remember watching the 1988 adaptation of David Lodge’s novel Small World. At the time, I had never heard of David Lodge but I went out and bought the book and was totally hooked. I then discovered that Small World was the second part of a ‘campus trilogy’ (preceded by Changing Places and followed by Nice Work). Since then I have bought every novel Lodge has ever published and he’s my favourite fiction writer (and I’ve bought and read some of his academic books on literary criticism). I love campus novels and through Lodge and devoured other university-based novels (including Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, Howard Jacobson’s Coming from Behind, and Ann Oakley’s The Men’s Room among my favourites).

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Brooker, W. (2019) Why Bowie Matters. London: William Collins.

Davies J. B. (1992). The Myth of Addiction. Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.

Griffiths, M.D. (2018). My shelfie. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 31, 70.

Lodge, D. (1984). Small World. London: Secker & Warburg.

Miller, W. R., & Rollnick, S. (1991). Motivational Interviewing: Preparing People to Change Addictive Behavior. New York: Guilford Press.

O’Connell, J. (2019). Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life. London: Bloomsbury.

Orford, J. (2001). Excessive Appetites: A Psychological View of the Addictions. Chichester: Wiley.