Online gambling, testimonials, and the psychology of persuasion

One of the most interesting psychological ploys used by some online gambling operators is the use of ‘bogus’ players and their testimonials. This appears to be a common practice used by some of the industry to generate hype about their sites. People are ‘disguised’ as unbiased players who then rave about particular online gambling sites in online player forums.

There has been a lot of psychological research under what circumstances information like this is taken on board or disregarded. There is a long established theory that has highlighted the most effective way of getting a message across. Most importantly, the information source needs to be credible (the important features of credibility being expertise and trustworthiness).

Identifying yourself as an “online gambler” means that you are more likely to treat someone else that is part of your ‘in group’ as trustworthy. Psychologists have highlighted that source credibility in this situation can be effective for two reasons. The first is that it leads to the processing of information in a half-mindless state – either because the person is not motivated to think, don’t have the time to consider, or lack the abilities to understand the issues. Secondly, source credibility can stop questioning (“if other punters think it’s a good site, then it must be alright”).

Psychological research has also shown that successful persuasive messages should be short, clear, direct and one-sided for receptive audiences. (Two-sided arguments should be used if the audience is likely to be unsympathetic to the message). The message must be explicit rather than letting the audience draw their own conclusions (although for informed audiences it can be equally, if not more effective, to draw their own conclusions).

Finally, the message should be colourful and vivid rather than full of technical terms and statistics. In short, the use of psychological research on communication to underpin marketing strategies, the online gaming industry generates mass emails and instant messages with typical claims like “I just found the greatest online casino on the Net. You should check it out “. Obviously if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Obviously online gambling companies are operating in a highly competitive market and almost every marketing tactic is employed to increase market share. However, the strategies used should be socially responsible and be fair to players. In the long run, online gamblers will give repeat business to those that they trust, and those companies are likely to be the ones who are the most socially responsible.

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK

Further reading

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Influence: Science and practice (4th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon

Cialdini, R. B. (2001). The science of persuasion. Scientific American, 284, 76-81.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). The marketing of Internet lottery gambling, Panorama (European State Lotteries and Toto Association), 10, 6-9.

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Internet gambling: Issues, concerns and recommendations. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 6, 557-568.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Social responsibility and trust in online gambling: Six steps to success. i-Gaming Business, 61, 36-37.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2001). The psychology of lottery gambling. International Gambling Studies, 1, 27-44.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2008). Responsible gaming and best practice: How can academics help? Casino and Gaming International, 4(1), 107-112.



About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. His most recent award is the 2013 Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 600 research papers, four books, over 130 book chapters, and over 1000 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 2000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on January 11, 2012, in Advertising, Gambling, Online gambling, Psychology, Social responsibility and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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