Monthly Archives: May 2014

Trends reunited: How has gambling changed? (Part 1)

I was recently asked by the editor of the Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter to write an article for the 50th anniversary issue. I used the opportunity to look back at what I believe to be the most major changes that I have witnessed in the gambling field since I started my research career in 1987. Obviously I was biased in my choice. Today’s blog looks at five things that I predicted would happen: (i) gambling coming out of gambling environments, (ii) the increased use of technology in gambling activities, (iii) gambling becoming a more asocial activity, (iv) the rise of remote gambling, (v) the changing nature of family entertainment, and (vi) increase in gambling and gaming convergence. Part 2 of this blog will looks at changes that I didn’t see coming at all!

Gambling coming out of gambling environments: I remember vividly when the UK National Lottery was introduced in November 1994. One of the hidden impacts since the introduction of the National Lottery was that this was a widespread act of gambling that had been taken out of the gambling environment on a national scale. Pre-National Lottery, legal gambling mainly took place in betting shops, casinos, amusement arcades, and bingo halls. Admittedly, there were exceptions including the football pools and fruit machines on single site premises. However, gambling can now be done in a wide variety of retail outlets. It is also clear that the newer forms of gambling (such as Internet gambling) are activities that are done almost exclusively from non-gambling environments – usually the home or the workplace.

The increased use of technology in gambling activities: Technology has always played a role in the development of gambling practices. I have argued in many of my papers that gaming is driven by technological advance and these new technologies may provide many people with their first exposure to the world of gambling. Furthermore, to some people they may be more enticing than previous non-technological incarnations. Technology is continuing to provide new market opportunities not only in the shape of Internet gambling but also in the shape of more technologically advanced slot machines and video lottery terminals, interactive television gambling, mobile phone gambling and gambling via social networking sites. In addition, other established gambling forms are becoming more technologically driven (e.g. bingo, keno).

Gambling becoming a more asocial activity: I have argued that one of the consequences of increased use of technology has been to reduce the fundamentally social nature of gambling to an activity that is essentially asocial (e.g. slot machine gambling, video poker, internet gambling, etc.). My research has shown that there are many different types of player based on their primary motivation for playing (e.g. to escape, to beat the machine, for social rewards, for excitement etc.). Those who experience problems are more likely to be those playing on their own (e.g. those playing to escape). An old 1988 study by the UK Home Officealso made the point that those people who played in groups often exerted social influence on problem gamblers in an effort to reduce the problems faced. Retrospectively, most problem gamblers report that at the height of their problem gambling, it is a solitary activity. Gambling in a social setting could potentially provide some kind of ‘safety net’ for over-spenders, i.e., a form of gambling where the primary orientation of gambling is for social reasons with the possibility of some fun and chance to win some money (e.g. bingo). However, I have speculated that those individuals whose prime motivation is to constantly play just to win money would possibly experience more problems. The shift from social to asocial forms of gambling shows no sign of abating. It could therefore be speculated that as gambling becomes more technological, gambling problems may increase due to its asocial nature.

Widespread deregulation and increased opportunities to gamble: Gambling deregulation is now firmly entrenched within Government policy not only in the UK but worldwide. The present situation of stimulating gambling in the UK appears to mirror the previous initiations of other socially condoned but potentially addictive behaviours like drinking (alcohol) and smoking (nicotine). As gambling laws become more relaxed and gambling becomes another product that can be more readily advertised (i.e. “stimulated”) it will lead to a natural increase in uptake of those services. This could lead to more people who experience gambling problems (although this may not be directly proportional) because of the proliferation of gaming establishments and relaxation of legislation. What has been clearly demonstrated from research evidence in other countries is that where accessibility of gambling is increased there is an increase not only in the number of regular gamblers but also an increase in the number of problem gamblers.

The rise of remote gambling:In my early 1990s writings on Internet gambling, my colleagues and I predicted Internet gambling would take off for several reasons. At a very basic level, we argued that gambling in these situations was easy to access as it comes into the home via computer and/or television. I also made the point that Internet gambling had the potential to offer visually exciting effects similar to a variety of electronic machines. Furthermore, virtual environments have the potential to provide short-term comfort, excitement and/or distraction for its users. However, I also argued that there were a number of other more important factors that make online activities like Internet gambling potentially attractive, seductive and/or addictive. Such factors include anonymity, convenience, escape, dissociation / immersion, accessibility, event frequency, interactivity, disinhibition, simulation, and asociability. There are many other specific developments that look likely to facilitate uptake of remote gambling services including (i) sophisticated gaming software, (ii) integrated e-cash systems (including multi-currency), (iii) multi-lingual sites, (iv) increased realism (e.g., “real” gambling via webcams, player and dealer avatars), (v) live remote wagering (for both gambling alone and gambling with others), (vi) improving customer care systems, and (vii) inter-gambler competition.

The changing nature of family entertainment:Back in 2000 I made some speculations about the increase in and development of home entertainment systems and how they would change the pattern of families’ leisure activities. I claimed the increase in and development of home entertainment systems would change the pattern of many families’ leisure activities. I said that the need to seek entertainment leisure outside the home would be greatly reduced as digital television and home cinema systems offer a multitude of interactive entertainment services and information. I claimed many families would adopt a leisure pattern known as “cocooning” where the family or individual concentrates their leisure time around in-house entertainment systems. Rather than going out, the entertainment comes to them direct via digital television and Internet services. Part of this entertainment for many families is online gambling and gaming (particularly, more recently, via social networking). Young people’s use of technology (the so called ‘screenagers’ and ‘digital natives’) has increased greatly over the last two decades and a significant proportion of daily time is spent in front of various screen interfaces most notably videogames, mobile phones (e.g., SMS) and the internet (e.g., social networking sites like Bebo, Facebook). These ‘digital natives’ have never known a world without the internet, mobile phones and interactive television, and are therefore tech-savvy, have no techno-phobia, and very trusting of these new technologies. I have argued that for many of these young people, their first gambling experiences may come not in a traditional offline environment but via the internet, mobile phone or interactive television.

Increase in gambling and gaming convergence: One very salient trend is that technology hardware is becoming increasingly convergent (e.g., cell phones with internet access) and there is increasing multi-media integration. As a consequence, people of all ages are spending more time interacting with technology in the form of Internet, videogames, interactive television, mobile phones, MP3 players, etc. In addition to convergent hardware, there is also convergent content. This includes some forms of gambling including video game elements, video games including gambling elements, online penny auctions that have gambling elements, and television programming with gambling-like elements. Recently, there has been debate as to whether some types of online games should be regarded as a form of gambling, in particular those games in which the player can win or lose points that can be transferred into real life currency. Part 2 to follow!

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

Further reading

Fisher, S. & Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Current trends in slot machine gambling: Research and policy issues. Journal of Gambling Studies, 11, 239-247.

Griffiths, M.D. (1989). Gambling in children and adolescents. Journal of Gambling Behavior, 5, 66-83.

Griffiths, M.D. (1991). The observational study of adolescent gambling in UK amusement arcades. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 1, 309-320.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Adolescent Gambling. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Gambling on the internet: A brief note. Journal of Gambling Studies, 12, 471-474.

Griffiths, M.D. (1997). The National Lottery and scratchcards: A psychological perspective. The Psychologist: Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, 10, 23-26.

Griffiths, M.D. (1999). Gambling technologies: Prospects for problem gambling. Journal of Gambling Studies, 15, 265-283.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Gambling and Gaming Addictions in Adolescence. Leicester: British Psychological Society/Blackwells.

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

Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Impact of gambling technologies in a multi-media world. Casino and Gaming International, 2(2), 15-18.

Griffiths, M.D. (2007). Interactive television quizzes as gambling: A cause for concern? Journal of Gambling Issues, 20, 269-276.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Technological trends and the psychosocial impact on gambling. Casino and Gaming International, 7(1), 77-80.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). Social gambling via Facebook: Further observations and concerns. Gaming Law Review and Economics, 17, 104-106.

Griffiths, M.D. & Auer, M. (2013). The irrelevancy of game-type in the acquisition, development and maintenance of problem gambling. Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 621. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00621.

Griffiths, M.D. & Cooper, G. (2003). Online therapy: Implications for problem gamblers and clinicians. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling, 13, 113-135.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2002). The social impact of internet gambling. Social Science Computer Review, 20, 312-320.

Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2010). Adolescent gambling on the Internet: A review. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health, 22, 59-75.

Griffiths, M.D. & Wood, R.T.A. (2000). Risk factors in adolescence: The case of gambling, video-game playing and the internet. Journal of Gambling Studies, 16, 199-225

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

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The convergence of gambling and digital media: Implications for gambling in young people. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 175-187.

Meyer, G., Hayer, T. & Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Problem Gaming in Europe: Challenges, Prevention, and Interventions. New York: Springer.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics (revisited). International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.

In visible touch: Does ‘teledildonics’ have a future?

Online sexual activities no longer are restricted to text, pictures, videos, webcams, and audio. Nowadays, while still in its infancy, we have teledildonics. Teledildonics is essentially a virtual reality application that allows individuals to have sex interactively with people miles away. At present, mobile phones can call up and activate internally worn vibrators. Futurists have dreamed up many other potential ways that technology can be used to pleasure people. In the future, we expect that full body suits will exist that will be able to stimulate all five senses” (Whitty & Fisher, 2008).

“Virtual Reality, or interactive graphical simulations, has been clearly demarcated by the owners of the means of production as an almost exclusively masculine enclave. Almost all applications (at least those that are marketable) respond to specifically male needs, be they physical, emotional, recreational, technical, military or sexual. As with most current Internet commercial activity, female exploitative, male-targeting pornography (‘phallocratic’ applications) will dwarf other applications by the sheer volume of activity. “Teledildonics” (from dildo: artificial penis) will provide unimagined, unlimited and customisable sexual services to male clients” (Walberg, 2006).

“[Male clients will be able to] wriggle into a condom-tight body suit embedded with thousands of miniature electronic sensors, computer controlled to simulate the feel of any object from rubber to skin. Suitably protected participants could then interface sexually with any partner, real, imaginary, or re-created” (McKie, 1994)

“[Teledildonics is] the virtual-reality technology that may one day allow people wearing special bodysuits, headgear and gloves to engage in tactile sexual relations from separate, remote locations via computers connected to phone lines” (Chicago Tribune, 1993).

“Futurologists are predicting drugs which sort out every kind of sexual malfunction and switch libido on and off like a light, ‘teledildos’ operated by computer for those who like to be probed from afar and underwear packed with sensors for couples bored with the limitations of current video games” (Twinn, 2007).

As these opening quotes demonstrate, visions of sex in the future are commonplace and often mention ‘teledildonics’. According to Wikipedia, the term ‘teledildonics’ was coined by hypertext inventor Ted Nelson in his 1974 self-published book Computer Lib/Dream Machines. In his book, Nelson hypothetically described a computer system that could translate sound waves into tactile sensations that could be affected in or on the body via user-operated stimulator device (i.e., a wired sensor system that was capable of converting sound into tactile sensations). However, a short article written by Charles Platt describes a teledildonic hardware device (but does not use the term itself):

Many men display more affection for their cars than their wives; perhaps the ultimate love-object could be a plastic thing, with many alternative orifices, offering various tactile qualities, shapes and depths…The idea of something like a long sausage, vibrating softly, full of warm treacle, has certain attractions as a sexual toy”.

More recently, it was Howard Rheingold’s essay ‘Teledildonics: Reach Out and Touch Someone’ in a 1990 issue of the cyberculture magazine Mondo 2000 that popularized the concept and is viewed by many as a ‘must read’ for anyone (as Jane Fader asserts) “interested in the intersection of sex and technology, social networks and identity, or history of thought”. I first came across the word in 1993 when I appeared on a Channel 4 television documentary talking about video game sexploitation (in fact, Dr. Anil Aggrawal in his 2009 book Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices defines ‘teledildonics’ as “sexual arousal from computer sex games”). The online Urban Dictionary defines it as the computer-mediated sexual interaction between the [virtual reality] presences of two humans”. Alternatively, Wikipedia claims that teledildonics refers to:

“…electronic sex toys that can be controlled by a computer to reach orgasm. Promoters of these devices have claimed since the 1980s they are the ‘next big thing’ in cybersex technology. ‘Teledildonics’ can also refer to the integration of telepresence with sex that these toys make possible. In its original conception, this technology was to have been used for remote sex (or, at least, remote mutual masturbation) where the physical sensations of touch could be transmitted over a data link between the participants. Sex toys that can be manipulated remotely by another party are currently coming onto the market”.

For Rob Baedeker, author of the article ‘Virtual Sex’ on the Web MD website, teledildonics (or cyberdildonics as he also calls it) simply relates to any sex toy that can be controlled via a computer. To give an example, Baedeker describes a wireless vibrator called the ‘Sinulator’ that works via an online application controlled by somebody other than the person that physically has the vibrator. He also describes the ‘Interactive Fleshlight’ corollary – “a penis sleeve for men that transmits in-and-out action into vibrations for the Sinulator on the other end”. For his article, Baedeker interviewed Regina Lynn, author of Sexual Revolution 2.0 who in relation to teledildonics was quoted as saying:

“It’s not sex but it is sex I don’t like the phrase ‘virtual sex’ because it trivializes the experience. There are many ways to share sex with people in virtual spaces, and you still have to communicate to the other person what you like and don’t like. It’s such a mental and emotional experience. That’s part of what turns people on”.

However, now that we have Skype where couples can have mutual masturbation sessions with each other real-time and face-to-face, it does beg the question whether teledildonics has a future. It will ultimately come down to whether individuals want and/or prefer tactile over visual cues from their sexual partner. As Antal Haans and Wijnand A. IJsselsteijn note in a 2009 conference paper they wrote on telepresence:

“Touching is an important part of our social interaction repertoire. Despite the significance of touch, current communication devices rely predominantly on vision and hearing. In recent years, however, several designers and researchers have developed prototypes that allow for mediated social touch; enabling people to touch each other over a distance by means of haptic and tactile feedback technology…Designers of such systems conjecture that the addition of a haptic or tactile communication channel will enrich mediated interactions, and generally refer to the symbolic and intrinsic (e.g., recovery from stress) functions of social touch, as well as to the supposed intimate nature of addressing the skin…Interestingly, in the domain of internet-based adult toys there are several commercial systems available that take advantage of combining tactile stimulation with visual feedback”.

Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, 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.

Baedeker, R. (2009). Everything you’ve been afraid to ask about sex in cyberspace. Web MD. Located at:

Cybersex (2014). Teledildonics. Located at:

Castronova, E. (2009). Fertility and virtual reality. Washington & Lee Law Review, 66, 1085-1126.

Fader, J. (2010). ‘Teledildonics’ by Howard Rheingold. September 15. Located at:

Haans, A., & IJsselsteijn, W. A. (2009). I’m always Touched by Your Presence, Dear”: Combining mediated social touch with morphologically correct visual feedback. Proceedings of Presence 2009.

McKie, D. (1994). Cybersex, Lies and Computer Games. In Green, L. (Ed.), Framing Technology. NSW: Allen & Unwin.

Twinn, F. (2007). The Miscellany of Sex: Tantalizing Travels Through Love, Lust and Libido. London: Arcturus.

Walberg, S. (2006). The ideological and cultural processes that represent new communications technologies as’ masculine’. Located at:

Whitty, M.T., & Fisher, W.A. (2008). The sexy side of the internet: An examination of sexual activities and materials in cyberspace. In A. Barak (Ed.), Psychological Aspects of Cyberspace: Theory, Research, Applications (pp. 185-208). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia (2014). Teledildonics. Located at:

Tales of heads: A brief look at non-suicidal decapitation

I apologise in advance that today’s blog (a) contains almost no psychology, and (b) may upset my more squeamish readers. However, the material in today’s blog certainly fits my definition of both ‘extreme’ and ‘extreme behaviour’. The idea for this blog began when (quite by accident) I read a 2012 paper by Dr. A.F. Rashid and his colleagues in the Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences entitled ‘Accidental decapitation – An urban legend turned true’. They wrote that:

This is a rare case of complete decapitation involving a 78-year-old bus passenger. All the occupants of the bus except the driver, sustained multiple injuries and died on the spot. An old man was decapitated in the accident. His head was recovered outside the mangled remains of the vehicle and the rest of the body was in the seat of the damaged vehicle. Evaluation of roadside evidence and the deceased injuries revealed that the victim was holding his head outside a window as the vehicle spun out of control, decapitation being due to the impact of his head against a tree on the side of the road”.

What piqued my interest was the claim that decapitations were “rare”. A paper by Dr. B. Kumral and colleagues evaluating medico-legal deaths due to decapitation in the Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine confirmed that such deaths are indeed rare events in the civilian population accounting for approximately 0.1% of medico-legal autopsies. I was surprised to find that quite a few decapitation case studies in the literature were suicides (and I’ve written these up in a separate blog that I will post at a later date). Today’s blog takes a brief look at some of the recorded non-suicidal decapitations from the forensic literature.

From my own reading of the non-suicidal decapitation literature, it would appear that the majority of decapitations are either caused by tragic traffic accidents or by murderers during or after the killing. For instance, in relation to traffic accidents, Dr. K. Kibayashi and colleagues reported in a 1999 issue of Medicine, Science, and the Law the case of decapitation of a vehicle passenger in an accident on a. The roadside evidence and the victim’s injuries revealed that the passenger was partially ejected from a broken car window as the vehicle spun out of control. The decapitation occurred as a result of the impact of the man’s head hitting a barrier on the side of the road. The key causes of the accident were listed as (i) an unfastened seat belt, (ii) high-speed driving and (iii) the design of the road barrier.

The most common vehicle associated with decapitation appears to be motorcycles. For instance, 2008 paper in the International Journal of Legal Medicine by Dr. Y. Ihama and colleagues reported the tragic head decapitation of an 18-year old motorcycle rider in an off-road accident when his motorcycle tore a roadblock chain from its attachment. The paper noted that:

“The decapitation injuries of the head and the torso corresponded perfectly, without apparent loss of tissue. The severance plane passed horizontally through the upper cervical region and [the] C4 [neck vertebrae], which sustained a comminuted fracture…The decapitation resulted from the rotational movement of the unstrung chain, which struck and strangled the driver’s neck”.

Another paper (reported a year earlier) also described the decapitation of a motorcyclist. In a case study in the journal Folia Medica, Dr. I. Doichinov, and his colleagues reported on the complete decapitation of a 20-year old motorcyclist during a road accident. However, in this case, the motorcycle rider was hit in his neck by the edge of a car compartment and resulted in complete decapitation of the rider’s head. The authors also noted that:

“The head of the motorcyclist was 37.5 [metres] away from the car in the direction of the motorcycle movement. The collision speed of the motorcycle was about 133 km/h…In our case the basic mechanism for decapitation was the direct trauma in the cervical region”.

In a third motorcycling tragedy, Dr. R. Zoja and colleagues reported the death and complete decapitation of motorcyclist wearing full-face helmet in a 2011 issue of the journal Forensic Science International. In this case:

“A young man lost control of his motorcycle and was thrown about 20 [metres], hitting his head against the barrier separating a tramline from the road. The resulting trauma caused his decapitation, the only fatal wound ascertained by the various forensic investigations…The absence of abrasions or signs that the wound edges came into contact with a metal structure, the presence of signs of impact on the side of the helmet and the finding of a transversal fracture at the base of the skull point to the violent action of a side-to-side opposite force, due to the resistance provided by the lower edge of the protective helmet”.

A 2009 paper by Dr. S. Demirci and colleagues in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology reported the case of an accidental decapitation of a male agriculture worker. While he was working in a field, the man had tied his scarf tied over his face to stop barley dust (to which he was allergic) blowing into his face. The authors reported that:

“The trailer was simultaneously being loaded by a helix elevator machine and its rotating shaft suddenly caught the victim’s scarf and pulled it down to the victim’s neck. The rotating motion immediately tightened the scarf around the neck resulting in hanging/strangulation noose that, by continued tightening, caused decapitation of the victim. The victim’s body was found on the ground by the trailer and the victim’s head was discovered in the barley load in the trailer. Examination revealed that the neck was severed at the level of the second and third cervical vertebrae”.

In 2010, Dr. K.H. Dogan and colleagues reported the disturbing case of a Turkish 33-year schizophrenic daughter who dismembered the corpse of her 57-year old mother (in the Journal of Forensic Sciences). They noted that the dismembering of corpses is always viewed by society as “more hideous crime than the homicide itself”. In the published paper, the authors reported that the mother’s head had been decapitated, and that the daughter had also dismembered her mother’s arms and hands. The authors also reported that:

“On the victim’s head and back there were 71 incised and stab wounds in total. They were superficial, except the five stab wounds which were connected to the right chest cavity and which incapacitated the victim. Although there is not a regulation for the act of dismembering the corpse in the Turkish Penal Code, since this type of case is rare”.

Dr. E. Turk and his colleagues described the features and characteristics of homicide in cases of complete decapitation in a 2004 issue of the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology. The paper examined four different cases of complete decapitation during or after murder. Of the four victims, three had their heads decapitated postmortem after the victim had been killed. The authors reported that the “motives for decapitation were considered defensive, aggressive, and a possible combination of the [two] in one case each”. In the remaining case, decapitation was the murderous cause of death where there was “an offensive motive for mutilation was suspected”.

Finally, a very different – and disturbing – kind of decapitation was reported in 2011 by Dr. J. Hiss and colleagues in the American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology – accidental fetal decapitation. The paper noted that blunt trauma to the head and/or neck in newborn babies is very rare. However, the authors reported the shocking case “of decapitation of a live fetus during vacuum-assisted delivery, where excessive traction on the head of the full-term macrosomic fetus with shoulder dystocia resulted in overstretching of the neck up to the point of decapitation”.

Non-suicidal decapitation appears to be very rare which perhaps makes each case shocking irrespective of how it happened. However, decapitation obviously occurs in other non-academically reported circumstances (e.g., terrorist beheadings that have been recorded and then online, beheadings as part of criminal punishment or war crimes), and are equally – if not more – shocking.

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

Further reading

Demirci, S., Dogan, K.H., Erkol, Z., & Gunaydin, G. (2009). Accidental decapitation: a case report. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 30, 270-272.

Dogan, K.H., Demirci, S., Deniz, I., & Erkol, Z. (2010). Decapitation and dismemberment of the corpse: A matricide case. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55, 542-545.

Doichinov, I.D., Spasov, S.S., Dobrev, T. S., & Doichinova, J.A. (2007). Complete decapitation of a motorcyclist in a road accident. A case report. Folia Medica, 49(3-4), 80-83.

Hiss, J., Kahana, T., & Burshtein, I. (2011). Accidental fetal decapitation: a case of medical and ethical mishap. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 32, 245-247

Ihama, Y., Miyazaki, T., Fuke, C., Niki, H., & Maehira, T. (2008). Complete decapitation of a motorcycle driver due to a roadblock chain. International Journal of Legal Medicine, 122, 511-515.

Kibayashi, K., Yonemitsu, K., Honjyo, K., & Tsunenari, S. (1999). Accidental decapitation: an unusual injury to a passenger in a vehicle. Medicine, Science, and the Law, 39(1), 82-84.

Kumral, B., Büyük, Y., Gündogmus, Ü. N., Sahın, E., & Sahın, M. F. (2012). Medico-legal evaluation of deaths due to decapitation. Romanian Journal of Legal Medicine, 20, 251-254.

Rashid, A. F., Aggarwal, A. D., Aggarwal, O. P., & Kaur, B. (2012). Accidental decapitation – An urban legend turned true. Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, 2, 112-114.

Türk, E.E., Püschel, K., & Tsokos, M. (2004). Features characteristic of homicide in cases of complete decapitation. American Journal of Forensic Medicine and Pathology, 25(1), 83-86.

Zoja, R., Gentile, G., Giovanetti, G. F., & Palazzo, E. (2011). Death by complete decapitation of motorcyclist wearing full face helmet: Case report. Forensic Science International, 207(1), e48-e50.

Net losses: Internet abuse and addiction in the workplace

The following article is a much extended version of an article that was originally published by The Conversation under the title ‘Tweets and cybersex: Workplace web use is a minefield’

A number of market research reports have indicated that many office employees in the UK spend at least one hour of their day at work on various non-work activities (e.g., booking holidays, shopping online, posting messages on social networking sites, playing online games, etc.) and costs businesses millions of pounds a year. These findings highlight that internet abuse is a serious cause for concern – particularly to employers. Furthermore, the long-term effects of internet abuse may have more far-reaching effects for the company that internet abusers work for than the individuals themselves. Abuse also suggests that there may not necessarily be any negative effects for the user other than a decrease in work productivity.

Back in the early 2000s (and using some of Kimberley Young’s work on types of internet addiction) I developed a typology of internet abusers. This included cybersexual Internet abuse, online friendship/relationship abuse, internet activity abuse, online information abuse, criminal internet abuse, and miscellaneous Internet abuse:

  • Cybersexual Internet abuse: This involves the abuse of adult websites for cybersex and cyberporn during work hours. Such behaviours include the reading of online pornographic magazines, the watching of pornographic videos and/or webcams, or the participating in online sexual discussion groups, forums or instant chat facilities
  • Online friendship/relationship abuse: This involves the conducting of an online friendship and/or relationship during work hours. Such a category could also include the use of e-mailing friends, posting messages to friends on social networking sites (e.g., on Facebook, Twitter, etc.), and/or engaging in discussion groups, as well as maintenance of online emotional relationships. Such people may also abuse the Internet by using it to explore gender and identity roles by swapping gender or creating other personas and forming online relationships or engaging in cybersex.
  • Internet activity abuse: This involves the use of the internet during work hours in which other non-work related activities are done (e.g., online gambling, online shopping, online travel booking, online video gaming in massively multiplier games, online day-trading, online casual gaming via social network sites, etc.). This appears to be one of the most common forms of Internet abuse in the workplace.
  • Online information abuse: This involves the abuse of internet search engines and databases (e.g., Googling online for hours, constantly checking Twitter account, etc.). Typically, this involves individuals who search for work-related information on databases etc. but who end up wasting hours of time with little relevant information gathered. This may be deliberate work-avoidance but may also be accidental and/or non-intentional. It may also involve people who seek out general educational information, information for self-help/diagnosis (including online therapy) and/or scientific research for non-work purposes.
  • Criminal Internet abuse: This involves the seeking out individuals who then become victims of sexually-related Internet crime (e.g., online sexual harassment, online trolling, cyberstalking, paedophilic “grooming” of children). The fact that these types of abuse involve criminal acts may have severe implications for employers.
  • Miscellaneous Internet abuse: This involves any activity not found in the above categories such as the digital manipulation of images on the Internet for entertainment and/or masturbatory purposes (e.g., creating celebrity fake photographs where heads of famous people are superimposed onto someone else’s naked body).

There are many factors that make Internet abuse in the workplace seductive. It is clear from research in the area of computer-mediated communication that virtual environments have the potential to provide short-term comfort, excitement, and/or distraction. These provide compelling reasons as to why employees may engage in non-work related internet use. There are also other reasons (opportunity, access, affordability, anonymity, convenience, escape, disinhibition, social acceptance, and longer working hours):

  • Opportunity and access: Obvious pre-cursors to potential Internet abuse includes both opportunity and access to the Internet. Clearly, the internet is now commonplace and widespread, and is almost integral to almost all office workplace environments. Given that prevalence of undesirable behaviours is strongly correlated with increased access to the activity, it is not surprising that the development of internet abuse appears to be increasing across the population. Research into other socially acceptable but potentially problematic behaviours (drinking alcohol, gambling etc.) has demonstrated that increased accessibility leads to increased uptake (i.e., regular use) and that this eventually leads to an increase in problems – although the increase may not be proportional.
  • Affordability: Given the wide accessibility of the internet, it is now becoming cheaper and cheaper to use the online services on offer. Furthermore, for almost all employees, Internet access is totally free of charge and the only costs will be time and the financial costs of some particular activities (e.g., online sexual services, online gambling etc.).
  • Anonymity: The anonymity of the Internet allows users to privately engage in their behaviours of choice in the belief that the fear of being caught by their employer is minimal. This anonymity may also provide the user with a greater sense of perceived control over the content, tone, and nature of their online experiences. The anonymity of the Internet often facilitates more honest and open communication with other users and can be an important factor in the development of online relationships that may begin in the workplace. Anonymity may also increase feelings of comfort since there is a decreased ability to look for, and thus detect, signs of insincerity, disapproval, or judgment in facial expression, as would be typical in face-to-face interactions.
  • Convenience: Interactive online applications such as e-mail, social media, chat rooms, online forums, or role-playing games provide convenient mediums to meet others without having to leave one’s work desk. Online abuse will usually occur in the familiar and comfortable environment of home or workplace thus reducing the feeling of risk and allowing even more adventurous behaviours.
  • Escape: For some, the primary reinforcement of particular kinds of internet abuse (e.g., to engage in an online affair and/or cybersex) is the sexual gratification they experience online. In the case of behaviours like cybersex and online gambling, the experiences online may be reinforced through a subjectively and/or objectively experienced ‘high’. The pursuit of mood-modifying experiences is characteristic of addictions. The mood-modifying experience has the potential to provide an emotional or mental escape and further serves to reinforce the behaviour. Abusive and/or excessive involvement in this escapist activity may lead to problems (e.g., online addictions). Online behaviour can provide a potent escape from the stresses and strains of real life. These activities fall on the continuum from life enhancing to pathological and addictive.
  • Disinhibition: Disinhibition is clearly one of the internet’s key appeals as there is little doubt that the Internet makes people less inhibited. Online users appear to open up more quickly online and reveal themselves emotionally much faster than in the offline world. What might take months or years in an offline relationship may only takes days or weeks online. As a number of researchers have pointed out, the perception of trust, intimacy and acceptance has the potential to encourage online users to use these relationships as a primary source of companionship and comfort.
  • Social acceptability:The social acceptability of online interaction is another factor to consider in this context. What is really interesting is how the perception of online activity has changed over the last 15 years (e.g., the ‘nerdish’ image of the Internet is almost obsolete). It may also be a sign of increased acceptance as young children and adolescents are exposed to technology earlier and so become used to socializing using computers as tools. For instance, laying the foundations for an online relationship in this way has become far more socially acceptable and will continue to be so. Most of these people are not societal misfits as is often claimed – they are simply using the technology as another tool in their social armory.
  • Longer working hours: All over the world, people are working longer hours and it is perhaps unsurprising that many of life’s activities can be performed from the workplace Internet. Take, for example, the case of a single individual looking for a relationship. For these people, the Internet at work may be ideal. Dating via the desktop may be a sensible option for workaholic professionals. It is effectively a whole new electronic “singles bar” which because of its text-based nature breaks down physical prejudices. For others, internet interaction takes away the social isolation that we can all sometimes feel. There are no boundaries of geography, class or nationality. It opens up a whole new sphere of relationship-forming.

Being able to spot someone who is an Internet abuser can be very difficult. However, there are some practical steps that employers can be taken to help minimize the potential problem.

  • Take the issue of internet abuse seriously. Internet abuse and addiction in all their varieties are only just being considered as potentially serious occupational issues. Managers, in conjunction with Personnel Departments need to ensure they are aware of the issues involved and the potential risks it can bring to both their employees and the whole organization. They also need to be aware that for employees who deal with finances, some forms of Internet abuse (e.g., Internet gambling), the consequences for the company can be very great.
  • Raise awareness of internet abuse issues at work. This can be done through e-mail circulation, leaflets, and posters on general notice boards. Some countries will have national and/or local agencies (e.g., technology councils, health and safety organizations etc.) that can supply useful educational literature (including posters). Telephone numbers for these organizations can usually be found in most telephone directories.
  • Ask employees to be vigilant. Internet abuse at work can have serious repercussions not only for the individual but also for those employees who befriend Internet abusers, and the organization itself. Fellow staff members need to know the basic signs and symptoms of Internet abuse. Employee behaviours such as continual use the Internet for non-work purposes might be indicative of an Internet abuse problem.
  • Monitor internet use of staff that may be having problems. Those staff members with an internet-related problem are likely to spend great amounts of time engaged in non-work activities on the Internet. Should an employer suspect such a person, they should get the company’s I.T. specialists to look at their Internet surfing history as the computer’s hard disc will have information about everything they have ever accessed.
  • Check internet “bookmarks” of staff. In some jurisdictions across the world, employers can legally access the e-mails and Internet content of their employees. One of the simplest checks is to simply look at an employee’s list of “bookmarked” websites. If they are spending a lot of employment time engaged in non-work activities, many bookmarks will be completely non-work related (e.g., online dating agencies, gambling sites).
  • Develop an “Internet Abuse At Work” policy. Many organizations have policies for behaviours such as smoking or drinking alcohol. Employers should develop their own internet abuse policies via liaison between Personnel Services and local technology councils and/or health and safety executives.
  • Give support to identified problem users. Most large organizations have counselling services and other forms of support for employees who find themselves in difficulties. In some (but not all) situations, problems associated with internet use need to be treated sympathetically (and like other more bona fide problems such as alcoholism). Employee support services must also be educated about the potential problems of internet abuse in the workplace.

Internet abuse can clearly be a hidden activity and the growing availability of internet facilities in the workplace is making it easier for abuse to occur in lots of different forms. Thankfully, it would appear that for most people internet abuse is not a serious individual problem although for large companies, small levels of internet abuse multiplied across the workforce raises serious issues about work productivity. For those whose internet abuse starts to become more of a problem, it can affect many levels including the individual, their work colleagues, and the organization itself.

Managers clearly need to have their awareness of this issue raised, and once this has happened, they need to raise awareness of the issue among the work force. Furthermore, employers need to let employees know exactly which behaviours on the Internet are reasonable (e.g., the occasional e-mail to a friend) and those that are unacceptable (e.g., online gaming, cybersex etc.). Internet abuse has the potential to be a social issue, a health issue and an occupational issue and needs to be taken seriously by all those employers who utilize the Internet in their day-to-day business.

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

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Technological addictions. Clinical Psychology Forum, 76, 14-19.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Internet gambling in the workplace. In M. Anandarajan & C. Simmers (Eds.). Managing Web Usage in the Workplace: A Social, Ethical and Legal Perspective (pp. 148-167). Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Publishing.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Occupational health issues concerning Internet use in the workplace. Work and Stress, 16, 283-287.

Griffiths, M.D. (2003). Internet abuse in the workplace – Issues and concerns for employers and employment counselors. Journal of Employment Counseling, 40, 87-96.

Griffiths, M.D. (2004). Internet abuse and addiction in the workplace – Issues and concerns for employers. In M. Anandarajan (Eds.). Personal Web Usage in the Workplace: A Guide to Effective Human Resource Management (pp. 230-245).Hershey, Pennsylvania: Idea Publishing.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). Internet gambling in the workplace. Journal of Workplace Learning, 21, 658-670.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). Internet abuse and internet addiction in the workplace. Journal of Worplace Learning, 7, 463-472.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The hidden addiction: Gambling in the workplace. Counselling at Work, 70, 20-23.

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). Internet sex addiction: A review of empirical research. Addiction Research and Theory, 20, 111-124.

Griffiths, M.D., Kuss, D.J. & Demetrovics, Z. (2014). Social networking addiction: An overview of preliminary findings. In K. Rosenberg & L. Feder (Eds.), Behavioral Addictions: Criteria, Evidence and Treatment (pp.119-141). New York: Elsevier.

Kuss, D.J., Griffiths, M.D., Karila, L. & Billieux, J. (2014).  Internet addiction: A systematic review of epidemiological research for the last decade. Current Pharmaceutical Design, in press.

Widyanto, L. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). Internet addiction: Does it really exist? (Revisited). In J. Gackenbach (Ed.), Psychology and the Internet: Intrapersonal, Interpersonal and Transpersonal Applications (2nd Edition), (pp.141-163). New York: Academic Press.

Young K. (1999). Internet addiction: Evaluation and treatment. Student British Medical Journal, 7, 351-352.

The prize and lows: What is the effect of winning large jackpots on human behaviour?

Over the last two decades I have written a lot of research papers about the structural characteristics of gambling and their effect on subsequent human behaviour. One of the most basic structural characteristics that may determine whether someone gambles on a particular type of game in the first place is the size of the jackpot that a game has to offer. Most of the research in this area has been carried out on lottery gambling as this form of gambling tends to have the largest jackpots. However, there is no reason to assume that these general findings should not be any different in other types of gambling such as winning a million dollars on a slot machine.

As I have noted in some of my previous blogs, structural characteristics in gambling are typically those features of a game that are responsible for reinforcement, may satisfy gamblers’ needs and may (for some ‘vulnerable’ players) facilitate excessive gambling. Such features include the event frequency of the game, jackpot size, stake size, the probability of winning, and the use of ‘near misses’ and other ‘illusion of control’ elements. By identifying particular structural characteristics it is possible for researchers (and the gaming industry) to see how needs are identified, to see how information about gambling is perceived, and to see how thoughts about gambling are influenced.

Showing the existence of such relationships has great practical importance as potentially ‘risky’ forms of gambling can be identified. Furthermore, by identifying particular structural characteristics it may be possible to understand more about gambling motivations and behaviour, which can have useful clinical, academic and commercial implications. It has been widely accepted that structural characteristics have a role in the acquisition, development, and maintenance of gambling behaviour. However, it would appear that the role of structural characteristics has become even more significant within the past decade and has led to increased empirical research on structural gaming features.

One of the main reasons that people gamble is that it provides the chance of winning money. But does winning large amounts of money actually make people happy? People often dream about winning large life changing amounts of money on games like a national lottery. The winners hopefully look forward to a long life of everlasting happiness although studies have found that lottery winners are euphoric very briefly before they settle back to their normal level of happiness or unhappiness. This is because happiness is relative. There is a popular belief by some psychologists that in the long run, winning large amounts of money on gambling activities will not make someone happy. Researchers who study happiness say that everyone has a certain level of happiness that stays relatively constant but can be changed by particular events that make the person happy or sad.

Thankfully, this change only lasts for a short period of time. For instance, if someone is a generally happy person and a close relative dies, research shows that after a few months or so, the person will go back to the same happiness level that they were previously. However, this works the other way too. If a person is not very happy in their day-to-day life, they could win a large amount of money gambling and they would probably be happy for a couple months but then they would ‘level out’ and go back to life at their normal unhappiness level.

Back in 1978, research by Dr. Phillip Brickman and his colleagues in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology compared a sample of 22 major lottery winners with 22 controls and also with a group of 29 paralysed accident victims. They found that major lottery winners were no happier than control groups. Another 1994 study by Dr. G. Eckblad and Dr. A. von der Lippe (in the Journal of Gambling Studies) investigated 261 Norwegian lottery winners who had won more than one million Norwegian Krone (approximately £100,000). There were few typical emotional reactions to winning apart from moderate happiness and relief. Their gambling was modest both before and after winning the lottery and their experiences with winning were almost all positive. The researchers reported that their quality of life was stable or had improved. They concluded that their results support earlier research by Dr. Roy Kaplan (also published in the Journal of Gambling Studies) who found that that lottery winners are not gamblers, but self-controlled realists.

One of the infamous questions in social science is whether money makes people happy. In 2001, Dr. Jonathan Gardner and Dr. Andrew Oswald carried out a longitudinal study on the psychologicalhealth and reported happiness of approximately 9,000 randomly chosen people. Their research reported that those whoreceived financial windfalls (i.e., by large gambling wins or receiving an inheritance) hadhigher mental wellbeing in the following year. In another longitudinal data study on a random sample of Britons who received medium-sized lottery wins of between £1000 and £120,000, the same authors compared lottery winners with two control groups (one with no gambling wins and the other with small gambling wins). They reported that big lottery winners went on to exhibit significantly better psychological health. Two years after a lottery win there was an improvement in mental wellbeing using the General Health Questionnaire. Other data (published in 2009) have also been analysed by Dr. Benedict Apouey and Dr. Andrew Clark who also found increased health benefits among lottery winners when compared to non-lottery winners. However, they also showed that lottery winners also drank and smoked more socially than non-lottery winners. Similar findings that lottery winners have better health indicators have also been reported by other researchers (such as Dr. Mikael Lindahl in a 2005 issue of the Journal of Human Resources).

On a more practical day-to-day level, most of the research on big winners has shown that their lives are much better as a result of their life changing wins but there are always a few winners who find other problems occur as a result of their instant wealth. They may give up their jobs and move to a more luxurious house in another area. This can lead to a loss of close friends from both the local neighbourhood and from their workplace. There can also be family tensions and arguments over the money and there is always the chance that winners will be bombarded with requests for money from every kind of cause or charity. There are also case reports in the literature of people become depressed after winning life-changing amounts of money (such as a 2002 study by Dr. S. Nissle and Dr. T. Bschor in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice), although these are presumably the exception as no researcher(s) would get case reports published showing people were happier after winning a large amount of money! However, despite potential problems, most of the psychological research (perhaps unsurprisingly) indicates that winners are glad they won.

Interestingly, one large study by Dr. Richard Arvey and his colleagues (published in a 2004 issue of the Journal of Psychology) of 1,163 lottery winners in the USA showed that the vast majority of lottery winners (63%) carried on working in the same job after their big win, with a further 11% carrying on working part-time in the same job after their big win. The mean average amount won by those who carried on working was 2.59 million US dollars. This appears to show that winning the lottery does not necessarily lead to a changing of lifestyle for the vast majority of winners although smaller scale studies have tended to show that the majority of lottery winners give up work following a big win of over $1 million US dollars.

There are also those groups of people who will view the acquisition of instant wealth as ‘undeserved’. Basically, when people win large amounts of money through gambling, other people around treat them differently even if the winners do not move neighbourhood or carry on in their job. This can lead to envy and resentment not just from people who know the winners but also from those in the locality of where the winners may move to. However, most gaming operators have an experienced team of people to help winners adjust to their new life and to minimize potential problems.

Research into the effects of high jackpots on human behaviour has been relatively sparse. The research that has been carried out suggests that huge jackpot winners do not suffer negatively as a result of winning. There is little research that indicates that high jackpot cause people to develop problems unless the large jackpot is combined with other structural features such as high event frequencies.

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

Further reading

Apouey, B. & Clark, A.E. (2009). Winning Big but Feeling no Better? TheEffect of Lottery Prizes on Physical andMental Health. Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei Working Papers (Paper 357). Berkeley Electronic Press.

Arvey, R.D., Harpaz, I. & Liao, H. (2004). Work centrality and post-award work behavior of lottery winners. Journal of Psychology, 138, 404-420.

Brickman, P., Coates, D. & Janoff-Bulman, R. (1978). Lottery winners and accident victims: Is happiness relative? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36, 917-927.

Eckblad, G.F. & von der Lippe, A.L. (1994). Norwegian lottery winners: Cautious realists. Journal of Gambling Studies, 10, 305-322.

Gardner, J. & Oswald, A.J. (2001). Does money buy happiness? A longitudinal study using data on windfalls. Warwick University Mimeograph.

Gardner, J. & Oswald, A.J. (2007). Money and mental well-being: A longitudinal study of medium-sized lottery wins. Journal of Health Economics, 26, 49-60.

Griffiths, M.D. (2009). The lottery of life after a jackpot win. Western Mail, November 11, p.16.

Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The effect of winning large jackpots on human behaviour. Casino and Gaming International, 6(4), 77-80.

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

Imbens, G. W., Rubin, D. B., & Sacerdote, B. I. (2001). Estimating the effect of unearnedincome on labor earnings, savings, and consumption: Evidence from a survey of lotteryplayers. American Economic Review, 91,778-794.

Kaplan, H. R. (1985). Lottery winners and work commitment: A behavioral test of theAmerican work ethic. Journal of the Institute for Socioeconomic Studies, 10,82-94

Kaplan, H.R. (1987). Lottery winners: The myth and reality. Journal of Gambling Studies, 3, 168-178.

Lindahl, M. (2005). Estimating the effect of income on health and mortality using lottery prizes as an exogenous source of variation in income. Journal of Human Resources, 40, 144-168.

Nissle, S. & Bschor, T. (2002). Winning the jackpot and depression: Money cannot buy happiness. International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 6, 181-186.

Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2007). The role of structural characteristics in gambling. In G. Smith, D. Hodgins & R. Williams (Eds.), Research and Measurement Issues in Gambling Studies. pp.211-243. New York: Elsevier.

What a carry on: A brief look at piggy-back fetishes

Over the last couple of years, I have watched a lot of Korean films in the Tartan Asian Extreme range. One of the things I noticed was that a number of scenes in the films I watched seemed to feature adults giving piggy-back rides to other adults. I actually Googled this observation and was surprised to find quite a few online essays examining this phenomenon. One of the more interesting ones I read was on the Drama Beans website that examined the cultural meaning of piggy-back rides in Korean films. One thing that became abundantly clear is that in Korea, piggy-back rides appear to have romantic and arguably sexual undertones. The article I read noted that in Korea, there are many references to ‘skinship” which is a made-up Korean-English word meaning “levels of physical intimacy, or more simply, touching”. The article then goes on to say that:

“Skinship can range from handholding to kissing, to sex…The most common piggyback scenario is the classic ‘I’m-too-drunk-so-will-you-be-my-knight-in-shining-armor-and-carry-me-home’. Every drama has it, and every romantic comedy hero earns his stripes this way…The piggyback is, in essence, an excuse for skinship, seemingly of the most harmless kind. Because it’s wrapped in a pretty bow of manly honor and a display of alpha male strength, it earns extra points for making women round the world swoon, thinking why can’t my boyfriend do that?…piggybacks are a direct callback to a little girl’s relationship with her father. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Freudian on you. I don’t mean it in an icky way. But don’t think that fiction in a patriarchal society doesn’t reflect the values that are deemed to be right in that culture. Piggyback rides in essence infantilize women to equate them with little girls, and paternalize men, to equate them with fathers”.

I then (through sheer curiosity) Googled ‘piggy-back fetishes’ and was surprised to find a number of news articles on the topic. Back in 2009, Kieron Bobbette, a 43-year-old man from Brighton (UK) admitted sexually assaulting five teenage girls (aged 13 to 17 years) while he was being given a piggy-back by them after by pretending that he had a bad leg and an ache in his groin (sand in some cases paying the girls to do so). The story was reported at length in the local newspaper (The Argus). On one occasion he simply jumped onto a young girl’s back without any warning as she walked along the street. The offences took place over a four-year period (2004-2008). One of Bobette’s victims said she had been forced to give him a piggy-back and that when he was being carried he asked her to do squat bends with him on her back. Bobbette pleaded guilty but told the judge: “Can somebody commit sexual assault without knowing they are doing this because I don’t feel I have?” According to a later report in Regency magazine, Bobbette, was given a Sexual Offences Prevention Order that banned him from jumping onto the backs of young ladies and demanding a piggyback ride. Bobbette was also added to the Sex Offenders Register for five years.

This doesn’t appear to be an isolated case as in 2010, Leigh Yeo, an 18-year old teenager from Exeter (UK) sexually assaulted two teenage girls (aged 16 and 18 years) after jumping on their backs for a piggy back ride. It was reported in a BBC news story that one of Yeo’s victims was physically sick following the attack, and later suffered chronic panic attacks. The second victim was left feeling scared and upset. Yeo was jailed for 15 months and was put on the Sex Offenders Register for ten years.

It would also appear that sexual piggy-back offences occur in other countries too. In 2009 in the US, a then 25-year old man, Sherwin Shayegan from Bonney Lake (Washington), was arrested for fourth-degree sexual assault following piggy-back assaults on male student high school athletes. According to one newspaper report:

The student noticed that Shayegan was behaving strangely, and attempted to leave. At that point, Shayegan is accused of jumping on the student’s back and demanding a piggy-back ride.It’s not the first time that Shayegan has done this, apparently. According to police, he’s done this to students in Ellensburg, Bellingham and Centralia. His usual MO is to approach a high-school student athlete, saying he wants to interview them for a school paper. When they agree, Sahyegan asks them bizarre questions such as ‘Have you crapped your pants?’ or ‘Looked at other boys in the shower?’ When the students, understandably freaked out, try to leave, he will then offer cash, before shouting that it is ‘time for a piggy back ride!’ and attempting to jump on the student’s back”

For Shayegan, the sexual piggy-backs did not stop and he was banned from attending sporting events in two US states (Washington and Oregon). In 2012 he was re-arrested for the same offence.

In a 2009 article by Alex Cipriano entitled ‘Five ridiculous [safe-for-work] fetishes’ at the Cracked website briefly examined the fetishists who just plain get off on riding the shoulders of other people”. He interviewed some piggy-back fetishists for his article and one of them was quoted as saying:

“A month ago, when intoxicated, I asked another male friend from Canada to piggyback me. Although the entire session only lasted a minute or two, my sexual drive (not specifically for him) suddenly sparked, more than alcohol can ever do. Halfway through the piggyback, I maneuvered myself to hold on his front, dangling there like a koala”.

Cipriano first speculated that that piggy-back fetishes are based in trust and security. However, after researching the article, he came to the conclusion that piggy-back fetishists find themselves trapped in a sexually arousing power struggle. Although “the piggybackee can offer suggestions on speed and direction…it’s ultimately up to the piggybacker to control the situation”. One of his interviewees for the article said that he liked it “very much to ride on older men. I can sit on the old man of about four minutes and bouncing on his shoulders”. Cipriano also quoted from people posting their piggy-back videos on YouTube. One of the viewers of a specific piggy-back video said:

“Love your videos! I like to ride on, sit on and trample folk. I’m 6′ and 231 lbs (105kg) and live in south UK. If any of you guys want to be ridden hard, sat on or trampled under my feet and/or enjoy a good beasting, contact me!”

In another of the few articles I have come across specifically about piggy-back fetishes, the female author and dominatrix Nic Buxom wrote about piggy-back fetishes in her ‘Featured Fetish’ column. Based on her own personal experiences she claimed:

“Piggy-Backing! Yes, this is a real fetish. And actually, as I’ve encountered it, usually the guys want us, the ladies, to give them the piggy-back ride. I just thought it’d be cuter to have a chick riding a guy. Unfortunately…this came out creepier than I expected…Piggy-Back fetishists are some of the kindest souls I’ve had the pleasure of playing with. They’re always very sweet and playful. Not all girls do piggy-back sessions because they’re quite difficult. Being a bigger, stronger lady I love taking them! Piggy-backers tend to be smallish. If a huge guy wanted this I don’t know that we’d have anyone capable but they tend to be petite or at least slim. Also, they’re always very considerate about letting me have short breaks. Piggy-backers keep at least their boxers on, they don’t get a free chance to rub [themselves] against my back or anything like that. Most of them discovered their fetish sometime in high school or at a young age when a friend of theirs playfully gave them a piggy-ride. You can find piggy-back videos all over the net, or so the excitedly tell me”.

In the name of scientific research I went in search of piggy-back fetishes online but was unable to locate a single dedicated online forum and only came across a handful of people who claimed they had (or knew someone who had) a piggy-back fetish. For instance:

  • Extract 1: “First off, I AM NOT A TROLL. I’m being dead serious. I’m 5’2.5″ and weigh about 130 pounds. So I’m not a large person. I love it when people give me piggy-back rides. It totally turns me on when a man can carry me on his back. Male strength is sexy! I only let guys I’m interested in carry me around. Is this normal?”
  • Extract 2: “Does “piggyback fetish” exist? I once was aroused when I hopped onto a bigger and taller guy’s back and he ran around, and I once had a sexual fantasy about that, so I was wondering…I mean regular piggyback, like when you’re standing up. And trust me, Google is my best friend, but all I saw on Google was this article about a guy that paid teenagers so they can give him piggyback rides”
  • Extract 3: “A few weeks ago someone mentioned a guy that liked to ride piggyback on men as a fetish and this got me wondering – what is the strangest or just most “random” request anyone’s asked you as something that gets them off?”
  • Extract 4: “My boyfriend recently told me that he has what is referred to as a lift/carry fetish. Specifically, he fantasizes about me giving him piggy-back rides. I would love to be able to satisfy his desires. He tends to be pretty reserved and undemanding, so I was ECSTATIC that he was able to tell me about this. But our size difference makes the idea a little terrifying (me: 5’5″, 160 lb; him: 6’2″, 200 lb)”
  • Extract 5: “When I was still in the army there was this tall boy in my regiment. He was a bully [called Flappy] because he had big sticking out ears…Flappy always singled me out for his own bullying…As a warm-up exercise, the corporal told us to jump on one another’s back. I immediately jumped on Flappy’s back and I put my thumbs behind his ears and pushed, so that his ears folded forward like the ears of a pig…After a while, I didn’t even have to speak, I steered him with his ears, he had become my submissive horse! And then it happened – my first ever orgasm on the back of a man. I was still riding on his back and holding his flapping ears, and I came big time…After that exercise he never teased me again. I had broken him!…And that’s how my fetish for protruding ears and piggyback riding started!”

From a psychological perspective, only the final extract was interesting as this gives a good etiological explanation of how the fetish developed and can be explained by basic learning theory (i.e., classical conditioning and associative pairing). The lack of detail in the other examples I found merely demonstrates that the fetish may exist without providing reasons as to why it might exist.

Arguably the most famous piggy-back fetishist in the world is the American cartoonist Robert Crumb. In the documentary film of his life’s work (simply titled Crumb), it features Crumb getting piggyback rides from several women with powerful legs that were clearly substitutes for sex. In the film, one of Crumb’s ex-girlfriends claimed the cartoonist liked to receive piggy-backs in lieu of sex. As Simon Hattenstone noted in a 2005 article in The Guardian:

“In the 1990s [Robert Crumb] became famous for a second time when the director Terry Zwigoff made a documentary about his life, Crumb. The film put Crumb’s life in context – yes, his foot fetish, his piggyback fixations, and his urge to dominate big, dominant women (in a pretty submissive way)”.

I’ll leave you with the conclusion reached by Girl Friday in her article on the cultural importance of piggy-backs in Korea:

“Whether you see piggyback rides as your ultimate fantasy or a nefarious plot to take over the world is up to you. While riding piggyback doesn’t really appeal to me personally, I do see why it’s a staple in dramas. It’s a simple gesture, but loaded with romantic ideals and warm paternal associations. It eliminates the need to say to your audience: this is a caring, sweet, warm man, underneath the gruff exterior. The piggyback does it all, with some skinship to boot”.

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

Further reading

BBC News (2010). Drunk Exter ‘piggy back’ sex attacker, 18, jailed. BBC Devon News, July 1. Located at:

Buxom, N. (2010). Featured fetish: Piggy-backing. February 7. Located at:

Cipriano, A. (2009). 5 ridiculous [safe for work] fetishes. Cracked, March 17. Located at:

Cridland, A. (2009). Piggy-back sex pest admits Brighton and Hove offences. The Argus, August 22. Located at:

Girl Friday (2010). Pop culture: Piggyback rides. Drama Beans, July 11. Located at:

Hattenstone, S. (2005). ‘When I was four, I knew I was weird’. The Guardian, March 7. Located at:

Men of steal: A brief look at the psychology of shoplifting

In previous blogs I have examined activities like shopping as an addiction. One similar such behaviour is shoplifting. I have to admit that from a personal perspective I came from a family where at least two of my siblings were regular shoplifters and were both regularly caught by shop staff members and reported to the police. As a teenager, my brother was a habitual shoplifter. His behaviour was economically motivated at the start (i.e., we came from a very poor and impoverished family and he stole things because he couldn’t afford to buy things that his friends had) but was later carried out to help feed his addiction to slot machines (i.e., he would steal shop items, sell them, and use the money to gamble). This latter behaviour is common among adolescent gamblers and I have written about this in both of my published books on adolescent slot machine addiction as well as in a number of my published papers.

Last week, one of my regular blog readers, forensic psychologist Dr. John C. Brady, sent me a copy of his latest book Why Rich Women Shoplift – When They Have It All. It’s an engrossing and fascinating read (I sat an read it all in one sitting) and there are many references throughout to seeing some forms of shoplifting as an addiction. I will return to this topic in a future blog (along with a look at the related behaviour of kleptomania) but I thought I would use today’s blog to talk about something very specific in Dr. Brady’s book.

One of the many interesting things I read was Brady’s classification of 16 different types of shoplifters with seven underlying psychological dimensions. The classification included those that are (i) impulse driven (The Externalizer; The Compulsive; The Atypical Shoplifter), (ii) psychologically motivated (The Kleptomaniac; The Thrill Seeker; The Trophy Shoplifter; The Binge-Spree Shoplifter; The Equalizer; The Situational Shoplifter), (iii) economically influenced (The Professional; The Impoverished [Economically Disadvantaged] Shoplifter), (iv) age determined (The Provisional/Delinquent Shoplifter), (v) alcohol and substance connected (The Drug or Alcohol Addict), (vi) mentally/medically impaired (The Alzheimer’s Sufferer/Amnesiac; The Chemically/Alcohol Driven Shoplifter), and (vii) no identifiable psychosocial drivers (The Inadvertent/Amateur Shoplifter). Brady acknowledges that the typology is purely descriptive, not exhaustive and was not developed to be mutually exclusive. Here is a brief description of the 16 types:

  • The Externalizer: These are people who feel that they are not in control of their lives (“controlled by outside forces that serve as negative psychological drivers, lowering their moral threshold”) and have an external locus of control. Brady argues that shoplifting simply channels to express anger or help legitimize their personal aggression. All of Brady’s rich women that shoplift fit this particular profile.
  • The Compulsive: From the descriptor, it is self-evident that this type of shoplifts as a compulsive behaviour and may also engage in other types of addictive behaviour such as gambling addiction and shopping/buying addiction. According to Brady they are generous individuals but do not care about themselves. When they are caught shoplifting they are full of remorse (and only feel good during or just after the shoplifting incident) but simply cannot resist the urge to shoplift.
  • The Atypical Shoplifter: This type of shoplifter is based on the work of Dr. Will Cupchik and described in his 2011 book Why Honest People Shoplift or Commit Other Acts of Theft: Assessment and Treatment of ‘Atypical Theft Offenders. Brady describes such people as not shoplifting for any kind of personal economic gains. Such people claim they had no idea why they engaged in shoplifting except to say that it wasn’t economically motivated.
  • The Kleptomaniac: Like atypical shoplifters, kleptomaniacs also steal and shoplift for no apparent reason (and do so impulsively). Many people may have the impression that most shoplifters are kleptomaniacs but as Brady is keen to point out, only 5% of shoplifters are kleptomaniacs. Brady claims this category is the most controversial although the classification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (correctly) classes kleptomania as an impulse-control disorder and the behaviour is not carried out as an expression of anger or vengeance. (Dr. Brady spends a whole chapter in his book explaining why the DSM classification of kleptomania is poor).
  • The Thrill Seeker: Brady describes this group of people (typically adolescents) as a “higher risk shoplifter” who shoplift for the intrinsic excitement of carrying out an illegal behaviour. They may also shoplift as part of a dare simultaneously with other shoplifters. Brady claims that shoplifting for thrill seekers gives them a sense of autonomy (and that the goal is “psychological overcompensation” for individuals that may have a history of failure in the lives).
  • The Trophy Shoplifter: Brady claims there have been an increasing number of cases of trophy shoplifters reported in the media. Citing Terence Shulman (who also wrote the Foreword for Brady’s book), Brady quotes from Cluttered Lives, Empty Souls – Compulsive Stealing, Spending and Hoarding (Shulman’s 2011 book) and says trophy shoppers “tend to need to have the best of everything: they seek out that perfect object, be it fashion, art, car, etc. – the more special, unique, or rare, the better”. To me, this behaviour appears to be a by-product of being an ardent collector, and Brady does go on to say there is a “direct connection” between a collector and a trophy shoplifter.
  • The Binge-Spree Shoplifter: According to Brady, binge-spree shoplifters are typically adolescents (but may carry on as an adult) where the person shoplifts in a short bout of thefts arising from a combination of weak impulses and doing it to impress their peers (i.e., or as Brady terms it “subcultural recognition”). Like binge drinking and binge gambling, the behaviour occurs in short specific bouts followed by appreciable periods of abstinence.
  • The Equalizer: This category of shoplifter arose from some of Brady’s own case studies. Some of the shoplifters he interviewed felt that over the course of their lives, many things (both real and perceived) had been taken from them and that shoplifting was “retaliatory justification” for such past events. Brady also described such individuals as going through their lives with “a good-size chip on their shoulders” and who are agitated, edgy and resistant to treatment.
  • The Situational Shoplifter: Brady describes the situational shoplifter as an opportunist that steals on the spur of the moment after seeing an item that has some kind of appeal to them. The process itself was described by Brady as “almost unconscious”. In many ways, the motivation is similar to the compulsive shoplifter but the activity is much more likely to be done on a very occasional basis.
  • The Professional: Professional shoplifters are very simply those that steal (often expensive “high-end”) items for profit. A number of television shows in the UK have profiled such people and as Brady points out, this type of shoplifter shows no remorse if caught and will often try to resist arrest.
  • The Impoverished [Economically Disadvantaged] Shoplifter: Like the professional shoplifter, the motivation to steal is economically motivated but is done out of necessity rather than for profit and/or greed. Items stolen may be basic necessities (food, toiletries, nappies, etc.) and when caught such people may show remorse (however, according to Brady they are hostile towards the “system” that has led to them being economically disadvantaged).
  • The Provisional/Delinquent Shoplifter: This type of shoplifter is usually an adolescent delinquent that shoplifts as part of a wider group of antisocial behaviours in their “troubled teens”. There appears to be some crossover with thrill seeking shoplifters and binge-spree shoplifters as there are elements of both hedonism and peer pressure associated with the criminal act. The good news is that many teens appear to mature out of such behaviour.
  • The Drug or Alcohol Addict: This type of shoplifter engages in shoplifting behaviour to support their addictive habit (and as such – and as Brady acknowledges – could technically be in the ‘economically influenced’ category of shoplifters. Brady claims they often take high risks and will try to steal as many items as quickly as possible and then run out of the shop. According to Brady, pre-planning is almost non-existent.
  • The Alzheimer’s Sufferer/Amnesiac: This group of shoplifters includes those with severe memory problems and who simply walk out of shops without paying simply because they forgot and/or didn’t realize they hadn’t paid. Brady claims that this group of shoplifters is arguably the fastest growing group as we live in a society where the average age of dying is increasing all the time.
  • The Chemically/Alcohol Driven Shoplifter: Brady claims that this group of shoplifters is distinct from drug and alcohol addicts because the shoplifting is not economically motivated and occurs because they are in an altered state of awareness (due to the psychoactive effects of the substances ingested). As Brady notes, their “mental state typically involves such symptoms as confusion, psychomotor agitation, memory lapse, disorientation, nervousness, and perceptual disturbance” (especially those high on cocaine or meth). From a public safety perspective, the police claim that it is these individuals that pose the biggest threat.
  • The Inadvertent/Amateur Shoplifter: This final category refers to those without any kind of psychological or physiological disorder who simply “forget to pay” for an item. People may not even realize for some considerable time after that they didn’t pay for the item(s) and it is then up to the person’s conscience as to whether they return the “stolen” items.

I think this typology is intuitive and covers almost all the types of shoplifter that I can think of. I say ‘almost’ as my own brother’s late teenage shoplifting behaviour would not be included in any of the 16 types listed here. However, the ‘drug/alcohol addict’ category could be widened to ‘chemical or behavioural addict’ and then he would be able to be included.

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

Further reading

Brady, J.C. (2013). Why Rich Women Shoplift – When They Have It All. San Jose, CA: Western Psych Press.

Cupchick, W. (1997). Why Honest People Shoplift or Commit Other Acts of Theft: Assessment and Treatment of ‘Atypical Theft Offenders. Toronto: Tagami Communication.

Griffiths, M.D. (1995). Adolescent Gambling. London: Routledge.

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Gambling and Gaming Addictions in Adolescence. Leicester: British Psychological Society/Blackwells.

Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Adolescent gambling. In B. Bradford Brown & Mitch Prinstein(Eds.), Encyclopedia of Adolescence (Volume 3) (pp.11-20). San Diego: Academic Press.

Griffiths, M.D. (in press). Gambling and crime. In W.G. Jennings (Ed.), The Encyclopedia of Crime and Punishment. London: Sage.

Griffiths, M.D. & Sparrow, P. (1996). Funding fruit machine addiction: The hidden crime. Probation Journal, 43, 211-213.

Shulman, T.D. (2011). Cluttered Lives, Empty Souls – Compulsive Stealing, Spending and Hoarding. West Conshohocken, PA: Infinity Publishing.

Yeoman, T. & Griffiths, M.D. (1996). Adolescent machine gambling and crime. Journal of Adolescence, 19, 99-104.

Sticking points: A brief look at ‘the Panini sticker craze’ and its relationship with gamification

Regular readers of my blog will know that I have written a few blogs on the psychology of collecting as an addiction in addition to specific types of obsessive collecting such as record collecting. Over the last two weeks I have twice been asked to appear on radio shows talking about the ‘Panini sticker collecting craze’ that is allegedly sweeping across the UK in the run up to the start of the World Cup. My son is avidly collecting Panini stickers and yesterday I showed him my own Panini sticker books that I have kept since filling them in during the 1978 to 1980 period.

Like my youngest son now, I remember spending every last penny of my 10-pence a week pocket money buying packet after packet of stickers trying to complete my collection. One of the reasons I may have been asked to appear on radio shows was that there was an article in last week’s issue of The Guardian newspaper about the adults who are getting “misty-eyed” about Panini stickers. Ian Shoesmith, 38-year-old author of The Guardian piece and father of a four-year old son, claimed he was collecting the latest stickers:

I rip the packets of stickers open with all the excitement and anticipation of the 10-year-old boy that I used to be, and inhale their long-forgotten but oh-so-familiar odour of glue mixed with sticky tape and paper…But my childhood passion – the thrill of racing to the paper shop, handing over all of my pocket money, desperate to be greeted by the mulleted head of a Soviet-bloc defender – is dismissed, out-of-hand, by my son. But I will persist in collecting them – for when he changes his mind. I’m most definitely not collecting them for myself. Definitely not”.

Shoesmith claimed in his article there are countless adults in the UK doing the same thing as him and had interviewed a number of people for the article. (In fact I read a statistic claiming that up to 15% of all children’s toys are bought by adults for themselves rather than their children). One thing I can appreciate is Shoesmith’s view that “it’s easier to hide adult nostalgia when you have a child who is genuinely interested in the stickers”. This definitely holds true in my household. One of the people interviewed for The Guardian article was 48-year old Mark Jensen (editor of a Newcastle United fanzine) and father to a 10-year-old son. He noted:

“For about four years [my son] would [collect] them all the time – the cards as well as the stickers…They were even banned at his school because of all of the arguments they caused. Some kids turned out to be far shrewder investors than others and rip other kids off by swapping the shiny stickers for normal ones and stuff like that…I do remember when I was a kid that there was a conspiracy story that some stickers were impossible to collect – there must be zillions of almost-completed albums out there. Nowadays I’ve heard of ‘virtual stickers’ but they are the antithesis to collecting in my view – you need the physical experience of opening the packet, all of your mates crowding round you to see what you’ve got”.

I agree fully with many of Shoesmith’s observations. I almost live vicariously through my 12-year old son opening his packets of World Cup football stickers. I love seeing his face light up when he gets a sticker that he really wants. I love seeing the anticipation of opening as I can remember those feelings myself, even though they were 35 years ago. I clearly remember going into school with a pile of ‘swapsies’ hoping that I could find the rarities needed to complete each double page. I loved it when I completed a line of three or four players, a page of players, a double page of players. It was like a bingo player filling up lines of numbers and then getting the full house (i.e., a completed page).

I never managed to complete a single football sticker book when I was a tweenager and there were always certain stickers that were seen as rarities (although got very close to a complete a Panini book in 1978). I loved the physicality of the books and stickers (and am no different now with my record and CD collecting – I always prefer CD and vinyl over MP3s). Shoesmith interviewed some academics for his article. Professor Carol Mavor (Manchester University) said that:

“Stickers are very tactile and old-fashioned. The humanity of touch is also very powerful. That’s why people love wooden toys, for example, because they have a unique feel, smell and are real. Adults don’t want to let go of their childhood completely…It seems, without being overly morbid, to be so far away from death, work and the other obligations of adulthood. As adults, we think of ourselves as different people from our childhood selves – the whole world was open to us and it was a free and more creative life.”

According to psychologist Felix Economakis (also interviewed by Shoesmith), there are likely to be gender differences and sentimentality:

“It’s down to sentimental attachment. Little objects from childhood are imbued with meaning because they remind us of people who may no longer be with us – it’s an association with the past through rose-tinted spectacles…Men are more into lists, while women tend to collect something with sentimental value. For men, partly it’s about status, and collecting for the sake of it. [Collecting is] quite a solitary activity”.

I also came across an interesting article written by P.M. Davies on the Design Thinkers website that related the collecting of football stickers to gamification. In the opening paragraph, he talked of being addicted to collecting them (although I’m sure he meant in a somewhat pejorative sense). He wrote that:

“If you grew up in the UK you may remember Panini sticker albums that encouraged kids to collect stickers of their favourite soccer players…As you collected you filled up your album and traded cards with your friends in the struggle to complete the full album. Every week when I got my pocket money I went down to the newsagent to buy packets of stickers in the hope I would get that rare one that had so far eluded me. I wasn’t alone as thousands of kids did the same. The strange thing was I didn’t even like soccer! I never have liked soccer and loathed watching games or even talking about it – and yet I was addicted to collecting the stickers. This is a great example of how strong the power of collecting is for us. For me it overruled the fact that I had no interest (and in fact quite a dislike) for the subject matter and got me obsessed with completing my set. I also collected novelty erasers but this was a more freeform collection and it didn’t awaken quite the same obsession as the soccer stickers. In fact the mechanisms set-up by Panini, and other similar companies, were very clever indeed and it is these techniques that are being used more in gamification projects”.

Davies notes (as I have done in my previous blogs) there are many articles that have been written on the psychology of collecting. Davies claims most of these writings are on what he calls ‘freeform collecting’ (“the urge to collect things like erasers, marbles, clocks, cars, hats, teddy bears, postcards and so on”). Davies says these are freeform because there is no limit to the collection. He argues that it is the more “structured form of collecting” (such as collecting football stickers) are related to gamification (i.e., the use of game thinking and game mechanics in non-game contexts to engage users in solving problems) because it involves a number of key features (my emboldened emphasis):

  • “There is an achievable goal that is being moved towards (e.g. completing the entire sticker album);
  • You can see what your current progress is towards that goal (e.g. the filled versus blank spaces in your sticker album);
  • The scarcity effect is used (e.g. some stickers are harder to find than others);
  • Status (e.g. the status of your collection effects your own status amongst your peers);
  • Group identification (e.g. getting a sense of solidarity with other collectors

Davies claims these five features these form a very powerful motivational system and can be (and are) used in commercial situations (such as the awarding of badges as virtual rewards). There are debates as to whether such reward systems actually work (as the rewards have no value whatsoever in the real world). But as Davies noted:

“Research has been carried out which shows that the fun and interest in striving towards a goal is often the primary reward (Ariely & Norton, 2009). Therefore as long as badges are the embodiment of going through a good experience it becomes a symbol and not a reward in itself. Most of the controversy at the moment is actually a criticism of organisations who are applying the badge system incorrectly rather than claims that the psychology behind it is flawed”.

Looking at my own collecting behaviour, I can honestly say that the striving towards a goal can indeed be rewarding, but for me the actual acquisition of the item being collected brings about the biggest reward.

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

Further reading

Ariely, D., & Norton, M. I. (2009). Conceptual consumption. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 475-499.

Belk, R. W. (1995). Collecting as luxury consumption: Effects on individuals and households. Journal of Economic Psychology, 16(3), 477-490.

Belk, R.W., Wallendorf, M., Sherry, J.F., & Holbrook, M.B. (1991). Collecting in a consumer culture. In: Highways and buyways: Naturalistic research from the consumer behavior odyssey, pp.178-215.

Davies, P.M. (2012). Collecting. Design Thinkers, February 13. Located at:

Formanek, R. (1991). Why they collect: Collectors reveal their motivations. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 6(6), 275-286.

Shoesmith, I. (2014). The adults who get misty-eyed over Panini World Cup stickers. BBC Online News Magazine, May 6. Located at:

Wikipedia (2014). Gamification. Located at:

That’ll do icily: A brief look at pagophagia

In a previous blog on five ‘weird addictions’ I briefly mentioned pagophagia, a craving and compulsion for chewing ice. Pagophagia is a type of pica (which I also covered in a previous blog). Pica is defined as the persistent eating of non-nutritive substances for a period of at least one month, without an association with an aversion to food. Although the incidence of pagophagia appears to have increased over the last 30 years in westernized cultures, Dr. B. Parry-Jones (in a 1992 issue of Psychological Medicine) carried out some historical research and pointed out that both Hippocrates and Aristotle wrote about the dangers of excessive intake of iced water. Parry-Jones also noted that references to disordered eating of ice and snow were also recorded in medical textbooks from the sixteenth century. However, the first contemporary reference to pagophagia appears to have been a 1969 paper by Dr. Charles Coltman in the Journal of the American Medical Association entitled ‘Pagophagia and iron lack’.

Pagophagia is closely associated with iron deficiency anemia but can also be caused by other factors (biochemical, developmental, psychological, and/or cultural disorders). If pagophagia is due to iron deficiency (such as case studies of those with sickle cell anemia), it may sometimes be accompanied by fatigue (e.g., being tired even when performing normally easy tasks). Dr. Youssef Osman and his colleagues published a number of case reports of pagophagia in a 2005 issue of the journal Pediatric Haematology and Oncology including the case of a child with sickle cell anemia and rectal polyps (that caused a lot of bleeding and made the anemia worse):

“An 8-year-old Omani boy, a known case of sickle cell anemia…presented with history of craving for ice. The child was noticed over the last 4 months to like drinking very cold water and to open the deep freezer and scratch the ice and eat it. The parents tried to stop him from doing so, but they failed…The child was started on oral iron therapy…and his craving for ice was completely stopped. Meanwhile, the rectal polyp was removed surgically”.

Other potential health side effects include constant headaches (a ‘brain freeze’ similar to ‘ice cream headache’) and teeth damage although this is thought to be relatively rare. However, a recent paper by Dr. Yasir Khan and Dr. Glen Tisman in the Journal of Medical Case Reports highlighted the case of a 62-year-old Caucasian man who presented with bleeding from colonic polyps associated with drinking partially frozen bottled water.

Khan and Tisman also suggested that some people who are deficient in iron experience tongue pain and glossal inflammation (glossitis). Others claim that chewing ice may help those with stomatitis (i.e., inflammation of the mucous lining inside the mouth). A recent 2009 case study published by Dr. Tsuyoshi Hata and his colleagues in the Kawasaki Medical Journal, reported the case of a 37-year old Japanese women who ate copious amounts of ice to relieve the pain of temporomandibular joint disorder (i.e., chronic pain in the joint that connects the jaw to the skull). Khan and Tisman also claim that the classical symptoms of pagophagia have changed in the last 40 years since Dr. Coltman’s initial paper in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

“This may probably be the result of advances in technology and changes in culture. When initially described [by Coltman], pagophagia was defined as the excessive ingestion of ice cubes from ice trays and the ingestion of ice scraped from the wall of the freezer. With the advent of ice cube makers and auto defrosters, the presentation of pagophagia has changed in a subtle manner as described in…our patients. Now we observe a subtler ingestion and/or sucking of ice cubes from large super-sized McDonalds-like cups and from the use of popular bottled water containers that have been frozen”.

There have been few epidemiological studies examining the prevalence of pagophagia. Such estimates vary widely within particular populations but (according to Dr. Youssef Osman and his colleagues) have been shown to be more common in low socioeconomic and underdeveloped areas. Pagophagia is thought to be relatively harmless in itself or to one’s health, although there are some claims in the literature that pagophagia can be addictive. However, empirical reviews suggest that pagophagia (and pica more generally) is part of the obsessive-compulsive disorder spectrum of diseases. As a consequence, some case studies even suggest that ice chewing compromises their ability to maintain jobs or personal relationships.

Treatment for pagophagia can often be overcome with iron therapy and Vitamin C supplements (to supplement iron deficiency if that is the cause). For instance, Dr. Mark Marinella in a 2008 issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings successfully treated a 33-year old woman with pagophagia following complications with gastric bypass surgery:

“The patient received red blood cells, iron sucrose, and levofloxacin. On further questioning, the patient denied taking vitamin, mineral, or iron supplements since surgery and reported prolonged, heavy menstrual cycles. She consumed large amounts of ice daily for several months. The patient’s husband frequently observed her in the middle of the night with her head in the freezer eating the frost off the icemaker. The patient admitted to awakening several times nightly for months with an uncontrollable compulsion to eat the frost on the icemaker. This craving resolved after transfusion and iron administration”

However, if the condition is psychologically or culturally based, iron and vitamin supplements are unlikely to work, and other psychological treatments (such as cognitive-behavioural therapy) are likely to be employed.

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

Further reading

Coltman, C.A. (1969). Pagophagia and iron lack. Journal of the American Medical Association, 207, 513-516.

de Los Angeles, L., de Tournemire, R. & Alvin, P. (2005). Pagophagia: pica caused by iron deficiency in an adolescent. Archives of Pediatrics, 12, 215-217.

Edwards, C.H., Johnson, A.A., Knight, E.M., Oyemadej, U.J., Cole, O.J., Westney, O.E., Jones, S. Laryea, H. & Westney, L.S. (1994). Pica in an urban environment. Journal of Nutrition (Supplement), 124, 954-962.

Hata, T., Mandai, T., Ishida, K., Ito, S., Deguchi, H. & Hosoda, M. (2009). A rapid recovery from pagophagia following treatment for iron deficiency anemia and TMJ disorder accompanied by masked depression. Kawasaki Medical Journal, 35, 329-332.

Khan, Y. & Tisman, G. (2010). Pica in iron deficiency: A case series. Journal of Medical Case Reports, 4, 86. Located:

Kirchner, J.T (2001). Management of pica: A medical enigma. American Family Physician, 63, 1177-1178.

Marinella, M. (2008). Nocturnal pagophagia complicating gastric bypass. Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 83, 961

Osman, Y.M., Wali, Y.A. & Osman, O.M. (2005). craving for ice and iron-deficiency anemia: a case series. Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, 22, 127-131.

Parry-Jones, B. (1992). Pagophagia, or compulsive ice consumption: A historical perspective. Psychological Medicine, 22, 561-571.

Blogging the limelight: A personal account of the benefits of excessive blogging

A few weeks ago, I got an email from one of my regular readers asking how I managed to write so many blogs and whether I might be “addicted” to writing them. I wrote back to her and noted that I had already written a blog on whether blogging could be addictive (although the blog itself was a more humorous take on the activity) and that I definitely wasn’t addicted to writing them (either by my own addiction criteria or anyone else’s – and no I’m not in denial). She wrote back and asked me if I got any benefit to writing them. Well, as a matter a fact there are lots of benefits, and I thought I would share you the benefits of blogging (at least from my own perspective).

I take my blog writing very seriously. (Some say too seriously). Not only do I have my own personal blog, but I also have a blog (called In Excess) on Psychology Today, and am a guest blogger on many other sites including the British newspaper The Independent, the gaming site GamaSutra, and debate sites such as The Conversation. Earlier this year I was delighted to see my personal blog pass one million visitors and at the moment is getting around 3000 visitors a day (which I’m really pleased with).

On average I publish three new personal blogs a week (having published five a week for the first six months). I’m thinking about cutting down to two a week (and I realize I sound like a cigarette smoker in saying that) and I have to admit I do sometimes get the urge to write and publish a blog. However, there are many benefits. Here are some of the main ones:

  • Raised national and international profile: My blog helps in the dissemination and promotion of my research, the Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, and the discipline of psychology more widely. My opportunities to write on other blog sites almost all came from the success of my personal blog.
  • Increased media opportunities: My blog has attracted the attention of various national and international radio and television programmes and has led to over 20 media appearances based purely on my blog entries (such as an American syndicated radio interview about my blog on ‘punning mania’ or appearing in a Voice of Russia radio debate talking about ‘DVD box set bingeing’ after I had written about it in my blog). I would also argue that the 12-episode series that I filmed for the Discovery Channel (called Forbidden and on which I was the resident psychologist each week) was directly helped by my blog (in fact the whole series is a televisual version of my blog).
  • Additional resources for university teaching: I’ve been using lots of my blogs to supplement my teaching resources. Students on my ‘Addictive Behaviours’ module have been particularly appreciative of my blogs on gambling and sexual paraphilias (based on my module feedback for the past couple of years).
  • Additional resources for ‘A’ Level Psychology teaching: I have also discovered that various ‘A’ Level psychology tutors are recommending my blog to their classes in relation to the psychology syllabi on both gambling and addiction. The feedback I have received is that students like the populist way I write by blogs that aid student understanding.
  • Blogs as forerunners for papers and articles: About 15 of my blogs have been lengthened and adapted for articles and papers. For instance, a paper I wrote for the Journal of Behavioral Addictions on sexual paraphilias was based almost totally on material in my blogs.
  • Blogs reprinted in other magazines and publications: A number of editors have contacted me and asked if they could reprint my blogs in their publications. For instance, my blogs have been re-published in the gambling trade press (e.g., World Online Gambling Law Report, i-Gaming Business Affiliate), addiction magazines (Addiction Today), and newspapers (e.g., the Nottingham Post have published three of my blogs in their ‘First Person’ column). One of my blogs on the Government’s Stoptober campaign was reprinted in the Nottingham Post, led to 11 radio interviews (including BBC Radio 5 Live), and was also published in outlets such as the Evening Standard newspaper and the ITV news website.
  • Dissemination of preliminary results and new ideas: Blogs can be a very quick way of disseminating preliminary results and ideas. I only ever do this if I think it will have a wider reaching effect than waiting for formal publication (e.g. some kind of political effect). Writing blogs is also a great way of raising issues and ideas without having to write a full-blown article. The also provide an excellent forum for the establishing initial thoughts, novel observations or naming new phenomena. It also provides a chronology of ideas that I can then cite in more formal academic papers.
  • Participant recruitment for research: Although there are ethical questions to consider, blogs can help in the (solicited and unsolicited) recruitment of research participants. I’ve been amazed at the number of different paraphiliacs that have contacted me following the publication of my blogs. The most high profile example is the case study that I published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior on eproctophilia (sexual arousal from flatulence). The case study I wrote up and published contacted me after reading my first blog article on the topic. When the case study was published, the story appeared in hundreds of stories around the world.

I hope that this small insight will persuade you that blog writing on issues related to addiction, obsession, and behavioural excess has been good for my academic career and that there are numerous benefits. The activity certainly gives me a rush sometimes, and is one of the most important things in my academic life. Some may argue that my blog writing is excessive. True – but it is not an addiction. It’s just something I genuinely love doing.

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

Further reading

Dunn, A. (2012). Blogging, the tipping point, and free will. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 85, 31-32.

Greenhill, R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2014). The use of online asynchronous interviews in the study of paraphilias. SAGE Research Methods Cases. Located at:

Griffiths, M.D. (2012). The use of online methodologies in studying paraphilia: A review. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, 1, 143-150.

Griffiths, M.D. (2013). How writing blogs can help your academic career. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 87, 39-40.

Griffiths, M.D. (2014). Top tips on…Writing blogs. Psy-PAG Quarterly, 90, 13-14.

Griffiths, M.D., Lewis, A., Ortiz de Gortari, A.B. & Kuss, D.J. (2014). Online forums and blogs: A new and innovative methodology for data collection. Studia Psychologica, in press.