Category Archives: Work
I was taken to the operating theatre at about 8.30am. My surgery lasted about three hours and at about midday I woke up in the recovery room. The nurse asked me if I felt OK and after realising my surgery was over, I told her I was OK. I then realised I could speak. I could also wiggle my fingers and toes so I also knew I wasn’t paralysed. My very first thought was “If I can talk and I can type, I still have a job”. Within an hour I had drunk water and ate a sandwich and could do both without difficulty or being in pain. However, it became very clear very quickly that I wasn’t in full control of my own hands as well as being unable to walk at all (my right leg could do very little – wiggling my toes was about the limit of my movement). I was also catheterised for the first time in my life.
After eight hours in the recovery room (I should have only been there 1-2 hours but there were no ward beds available) I was moved into a ward just after 8pm with some very serious cases (mostly with individuals who had gone through major brain surgery). All of us on the ward had to have our ‘obs’ (observations – blood pressure, heart rate, temperature, blood sugar, etc.) taken hourly right through the night (so I got no sleep at all). I also had horrendous spasms in both my legs (over 1000 a night for the first week). I was put onto a drug called Baclofen (which I’m still on now).
The day after my operation was not the best. Because of COVID-19 no patients could have visitors. I briefly spoke to my partner on the phone. That was the day’s only highlight. I realised that I couldn’t do basic things with my hands like eat with a knife and fork or hold a pen. The latter really upset me. I keep a very detailed hand-written diary so not being able to write in it was very upsetting for me. I was also unable to give myself a wash so for the next few days I was given a daily body wash by the hospital staff. I couldn’t even hold a toothbrush properly to brush my teeth. I found the whole experience demoralising and degrading. Not being able to shower was horrible. Anyone who knows me will tell you how important showering is to me and my mental health. I shower a minimum twice a day. Not being able to shower felt like an abuse of my human rights. I never felt clean after a body wash. On the day after my operation, it became clear I wouldn’t be going home that day and it soon became apparent that I would be in hospital at least a week.
After a few days, some of my hand functionality began to return. I could just about use a knife and fork and I could pick up a flannel to wash my own face. However, holding a pen and writing with a pen was impossible. Unlike the other patients on the ward (a couple of who were sedated almost 24 hours a day), once I had awoken, I spent the whole day out of bed sat in a chair. I had my iPod so listened to a lot of music but did little else. Couldn’t hold a book or magazine long enough with my hands to read.
On Tuesday (April 20) I had my catheter removed. That seemed like a huge step forward. My partner also dropped my laptop off. I was unable to see her but at least it meant I could Skype her and my children. I also realised that typing was something I could so with my hands relatively easily. Writing a few emails was also good therapy for my fingers and I had a link to the outside world (I don’t have a smartphone, gave up using one in 2019). The hospital physiotherapists had given me hand and leg exercises to do and I spent a lot of time using the ward rotunda as a mini-gym. No-one else was capable of using it (as they were all confined to bed) so I had it 24/7. I was moved to another ward which I was told was “good news” as it meant I needed less specialist care. On Wednesday (April 21) I begged the doctor to allow me to shower. He said I could have one as long as I didn’t get my post-surgery dressing wet. Had to shower in a wheelchair (surreal to say the least) but despite this, it was heavenly to wash my hair and feel clean after six days of humiliating body washes. My dressing was drenched but I didn’t care. I felt clean and alive. I felt co-operative and communicative.
Just after the shower, I had an unexpected visitor. A doctor visited me and told me that I would be leaving Queen’s Medical Centre and would be moving to another hospital (City Hospital) to a specialist rehabilitation unit (Linden Lodge). She said she would try to get me a bed there for that weekend and that I would probably be there for 4-6 weeks. My emotions were mixed. I was glad to be moving to a place with dedicated and specialist care, but was surprised to hear that I would be in hospital for another 4-6 weeks.
At lunchtime that day, I got the unexpected news that there was a bed at Linden Lodge that evening and I was told to pack up all my stuff (not that I had much to pack). At 7pm I was transported by ambulance (first time I had ever been in one) over to my new temporary home. I was given my own room (which was great) and I unpacked the few things I had. My partner had dropped off clothes at the unit but again I was unable to see her due to the COVID-19 visiting restrictions. At one point in the evening, I decided to sit on the floor rather than the bed to get undressed for bed (I found it easier than being on the bed). When the nurse came in and found me sitting on the floor, she thought I had fallen (I hadn’t) but recorded in her notes that I had fallen.
On the Thursday morning (April 22, one week after my operation) I began life in Linden Lodge. I wasn’t allowed to shower until I had been “assessed” by an occupational therapist. I finally managed to have an unsupervised shower (in a wheelchair) early afternoon even though I was not “assessed”. I also moved room nearer the nursing staff because I was deemed as someone who needed to be watched more closely because they thought I had fallen on the floor the first night I was in here. The more I protested the less they believed me. It was even written up outside my room that I was susceptible to falls (which was true prior to my operation but not something I had done in hospital).
Since then, things have gone slowly. I was told after my initial assessments that I would likely be here for three months (i.e., until August). However, I left hospital on June 22 (after 67 days in hospital). The hardest thing I had to deal with was (until about 40 days into my stay) the ‘no visitors’ policy. I did see my partner a couple of times outside the unit through the iron bars (which felt a bit like being in prison). Over the past 12 weeks, a lot of my hand functionality has returned although I still have some difficulties. There are things that I now consider easy (typing, eating with a knife and fork, sponging myself in the shower), some that I can do but have to focus (writing with a pen, putting socks on, washing my hair, brushing my teeth, doing a crossword), and some things which are very difficult but I can do (e.g., shaving, tying shoelaces).
The first Sunday I was in the unit, I found a sentence that had all letters of the alphabet (“Pack my box with five dozen liquor jugs”) and spent hours trying to write it out in upper and lower case letters with a pen. Very difficult and very time consuming (but I did it). Over the next few weeks, I started to write my diary again. I began by writing the days events in bullet points in capital letters (writing in upper case capitals was easier than writing in lower case letters). I then progressed to writing the whole day’s events but all in capital letters. On May 19, I started writing my diary “normally” again (i.e., in sentence case rather than in capital letters). I use the word “normally” advisedly. I’m still very slow writing with a pen and it’s not the most legible, but any activity I do with my hands I still call “therapy”. As I type this, I still do not have full functionality in either of my hands and I have resigned myself to the fact that I never will.
You can read Part 1 of this blog here.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
On April 15 I had an operation to decompress my spinal cord and to have the C5 disc in my neck replaced with a new titanium disc. I ended up in hospital for 67 days. Here’s the back story (no pun intended).
For the past 18 years I have lived with a compressed spinal cord. Although I had the condition since 2003, it wasn’t diagnosed until an MRI scan in 2007. The scan showed that the C5 disc in my neck was completely herniated and that the disc was pressing directly onto my spinal cord causing hundreds of electric shocks every single day. I was prescribed daily amitriptyline which significantly reduced the number of shocks I felt. I was also prescribed heavy duty painkillers (dihydrocodeine) but I soon realised that work was the best analgesic in the world. Instead of taking up to four doses of dihydrocodeine every day, I worked (and worked). I rarely took more than four doses of dihydrocodeine a year let alone a day. I was also given details of an operation I could have but just the very thought of it scared me – especially because of the risk of being left paralysed from the neck or chest down. I was told to come back if I changed my mind about having an operation.
I am not 100% sure what caused the complete herniation of the disc in my neck but I suspect it was a minor traffic collision I was involved in at the beginning of November 2003. I was sitting on the front seat on the top floor of a double decker bus when a taxi crashed into the right-hand side of the bus and I was propelled forward onto the bus’s front window where my head hit the glass window, smashed the glasses I was wearing, and left me concussed. I was highly stressed that day because I was on my way to have a CT scan to look at swollen lumps in my throat for suspected Hodgkin’s or non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Later that week I had a lymphadenectomy and the biopsy showed that I didn’t have cancer but was diagnosed with toxoplasma lymphadenitis. It was after this operation that I began to get the constant daily electric shocks (over 100 a day) every time I moved my neck. I assumed that the constant electric shocks were as a result of my operation but I was later told that the shocks were being caused by a compressed spinal cord and that my lymphadenectomy was not the cause.
Over the next decade or so, the pain caused the constant compression of my spinal cord got progressively worse. Walking became increasingly difficult but I used excessive work as the strategy to suppress the increasing physical pain. In short, work became the perfect distractor task. When I was 100% cognitively engaged (e.g., giving a paper or teaching, writing or editing papers, etc.) I was in no pain whatsoever. I returned to the workaholic tendencies that I had before I had children. One of my consultants also described me as having “unspent youthfulness” which masked my medical condition for years.
The lifestyle I was leading in the years leading up to my operation probably didn’t help. I was travelling excessively averaging 20-25 overseas trips a year for conferences, consultancy, and research meetings. Walking became increasingly difficult as I was unable to lift my right foot properly. During 2019, I had a number of really bad falls abroad (tripping over because my right foot wouldn’t lift) including three in Abu Dhabi and a couple in Auckland which left me with horrendous bursitis on both of my elbows.
During the lockdown period, my health deteriorated badly. I was not globe-trotting anymore and I was housebound for over a year. My working life (and social life) became increasingly sedentary. I was doing everything from home including all my teaching. I had not stepped foot in my university office since the end of February 2020 (and still haven’t).
In August 2020, I saw one of my consultants and told him that my health condition had got significantly worse and that I now wanted the operation. However, because my surgery was classed as ‘elective’ as opposed to ‘urgent’ a date for surgery never came as the Nottingham hospitals were full of very ill COVID-19 patients. At one point during the pandemic, Nottingham was the UK city with the most COVID-19 infections. By February 2020 I could hardly walk and was becoming increasingly immobile. I rang my consultant’s secretary every week asking if I could have an appointment. I finally got one at the end of March 2021 and after seeing how bad my mobility was, I got an operation date very quickly. Thursday April 15, 2021. I was told by my consultant who was performing the surgery that he expected my to be back home the next day if the surgery was successful.
I have to be honest and say that the operation still scared me. Although there was a small chance of dying, that didn’t worry me. It was the thought of waking up paralysed which dominated my thoughts for over a week prior to the operation. Loss of limb use. Loss of job and livelihood Loss of identity. Loss of salary. There are many risks with any operation but spinal surgery carries many extra risks. I was told that some of the consequences could be eating and drinking difficulties and voice loss (as they would be carrying out the surgical procedure through the front of my neck and having to decompress my spinal cord by going via my trachea and oesophagus). I told my consultant that I would rather be dead than paralysed from the chest or neck down.
As the day of the operation approached, I again used work to block out my fears and negative thoughts. On April 15, my partner dropped me off at the hospital at 7am in the morning. Before my operation I had talks with the anaesthetist and one of the surgical team. I then had to sign the consent form which included a very long list of all the things that could go wrong. However, the weeks prior to my operation were surviving not living. I felt I was in the last chance saloon.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of academics who have accused me of self-plagiarism. Here, I briefly outline what I have done and have not done in relation to the allegations I have seen. I think we would all agree with the definition dictionary definition of ‘plagiarism’, i.e., “the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own” (Cambridge Dictionary). Logically, based on this definition, ‘self-plagiarism’ would equate to the process or practice of using one’s own ideas and pretending that they are your own, but this is of course ludicrous.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines ‘self-plagiarism as “the reuse of one’s own words, ideas, or artistic expression (as in an essay) from preexisting material especially without acknowledgment of their earlier use”. On the same page as this definition is a quote from the journalist Taylor Wofford who notes “Borrowing your own words is a tricky issue. Writers and publishers tend to rank self-plagiarism as a lesser offense than – what should we call it? – ‘real’ plagiarism? Still, they mostly agree it’s a no-no”.
On July 10 (2020), Dr Annie Brookman-Byrne (Deputy Editor of The Psychologist) emailed me:
“At The Psychologist, we are considering writing a piece on the concept and practice of self-plagiarism. We have seen Brendan O’Connor and others on Twitter highlighting concerns over some of your published output. Might you or your institution be interested in making a statement for us around whether you think there is actually a practice here that needs to change?”
I immediately responded to her email and said:
“I’ve not read all the comments on Twitter (and I am not going to respond to anything on Twitter as that is not the place to do it) but the alleged instances of self-plagiarism primarily revolve around my use of journal text in populist non-refereed non-journal outputs. For instance, when I write for magazines like ‘Education and Health’ (a magazine for teachers) or in newspaper or magazine articles I will use text from my journal papers…I write for many different audiences. Obviously I write and co-write refereed journal papers but I am also a freelance journalist, a prolific blogger, and write articles for the trade press (e.g., gambling and gaming magazines) as well as articles in professional publications that are not peer-reviewed. Personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible. The alleged examples of self-plagiarism that I have seen directed towards me comprise less than 1% of my refereed journal papers. I am very proud of my publication record in many different spheres. For the record, most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 15 or more years ago and are making no distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets”.
I make no secret of using text from my refereed papers in my blogs, newspaper and magazine articles, press releases, trade press publications, consultancy reports, and reports for third parties (e.g., calls for evidence from parliamentary committees). Those who have been using plagiarism software on my refereed papers have included results from text that is not from refereed papers.
For instance, a number of examples I saw of my alleged self-plagiarism concerned the magazine Education and Health. Education and Health is a magazine for teachers and parents and is produced by the School Health Education Unit in Exeter focusing on adolescent health and education issues. Education and Health has no copyright (i.e., no author has to sign a copyright form), is not peer-reviewed, and articles do not have a doi, contain keywords, or have an abstract). I have published in it regularly for three decades. In some of the articles I have written for Education and Health, I have taken an academic review paper (6000-11000 words) and then turned it into a dumbed down ‘pop’ article (1000-1500 words). I’ve done this a number of times over the past 30 years. An example that I saw online last week was in relation to a 2011 open access paper by Daria Kuss and myself (i.e., Kuss, D. J. & Griffiths, M. D. (2011). Online social networking and addiction: A literature review of empirical research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8, 3528-3552).
This was an 11,000-word systematic literature review on social networking addiction. It has become one of our most cited papers (1,528 citations on Google Scholar as of this morning). After publishing this refereed paper, I then turned this into a 1500-word ‘pop’ version for Education and Health (Kuss, D.J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2011). Excessive online social networking: Can adolescents become addicted to Facebook? Education and Health, 29. 63-66.). In the first paragraph, the Education and Health article clearly states:
“As a consequence of the increased media attention to headlines about ‘Facebook addiction’, we recently reviewed all the scientific evidence on the topic (Kuss & Griffiths, 2011a). This article briefly summarises what we found”.
This sentence cites the paper from which all the material in the article comes from. I have not tried to hide anything or pretend that the article contains original material. The article was for teachers and parents. It contains a summary of the key things found in our refereed paper and uses text from that paper. If others want to view it as ‘self-plagiarism’ I have no problem with that. I view it as dissemination of our work to an audience outside of academia.
Any of us in British academia knows how important the Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact agenda is. My own research was rated as having 4* world-leading impact at the last REF and I’m hoping to repeat it this time. One of the ways I have gone about this is to disseminate my work to as many non-academic audiences as possible. My articles in the gambling trade press have been instrumental in the research and consultancy monies that I have generated for my university in the area of responsible gambling, player protection, and harm-minimization.
Almost all of the examples I have seen of my alleged self-plagiarism comes from this type of practice where I have turned pure academic papers into something more populist. Occasionally it has worked the other way (i.e., I’ve written a populist piece and then worked it up into an academic paper although the instances of this are much fewer). As I said above, personally I see nothing wrong in using material from my refereed papers in these other types of article as I am a prolific disseminator and want to get my ideas and thoughts to as many people and to as big an audience as possible.
Most of those accusing me of alleged self-plagiarism are citing papers that I wrote 10-15 years ago (although I did see one from 2015, again with Education and Health being the source of alleged self-plagiarism) and no-one appears to be making any distinction between what I have published in peer-reviewed journal papers and articles that have not been peer-reviewed and which I would describe as populist outlets. Plagiarism software does not indicate whether the text it finds comes from a refereed paper or non-refereed article. No-one who has accused me of self-plagiarism has contacted me personally and asked my about the source material and whether a particular piece of writing was refereed or not. There appears to be an assumption that all alleged self-plagiarised sources were from refereed papers (but they weren’t).
I should also add that there are other examples of my work that have been reproduced with permission from the publishers and/or copyright holders. For instance, the publisher IGI Global regularly republishes my work in other guises. Here’s an example I received this week from them (the words in bold were by the publisher and not me):
“I hope this message finds you well, especially during this turbulent time. It is with great pleasure that I am informing you that your contribution titled “UK-Based Police Officers’ Perceptions of, and Role in Investigating, Cyber-Harassment as a Crime,” previously published in an IGI Global publication, was carefully assessed and selected by IGI Global’s executive editorial board for inclusion as a reprinted chapter (100% completely unchanged from the original) in the recently published IGI Global research anthology titled Police Science.
IGI Global’s research anthologies, also called “Critical Explorations”, were created after an extensive survey was conducted with academic librarians, who requested to have a cost-effective and timely way to enhance their collections with the highest quality, timely research. This line of publications allows our publishing house to hand-select the highest quality research content (book chapters and journal articles of which IGI Global owns the copyright), to be reprinted in a research anthology format. This format also allows the author’s research to become more accessible and visible to a larger community of researchers around the world so that they can benefit from additional exposure (i.e. citations) for their work.
Please note that there is no intent to deceive anyone. We execute the highest level of transparency, as every single chapter that appears in these publications are labeled with a special notation indicating that it is reprinted content and listing the original source of the material. Additionally, because we are maintaining the integrity of the original published work, no changes have been made nor can be made to the chapter”.
I fully understand that my explanation for how and why I publish with different audiences will not be accepted by detractors, but that’s not why I wrote this. All I can do is give my side of how I disseminate my work and ideas to as many people as possible.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
According to Stuart Vyse in his book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, the fallibility of human reason is the greatest single source of superstitious belief. Sometimes referred to as a belief in “magic”, superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings, as well as a belief in astrology, the occult, the paranormal, or ghosts. It was reported by Colin Campbell in the British Journal of Sociology, that approximately one third of the U.K. population are superstitious. The most often reported superstitious behaviours are (i) avoiding walking under ladders, (ii) touching wood, and (iii) throwing salt over one’s shoulder.
My background is in the gambling studies field, so as far as I am concerned, no superstitions are based on facts but are based on what I would call ‘illusory correlations’ (e.g., noticing that the last three winning visits to the casino were all when you wore a particular item of clothing or it was on a particular day of the week). While the observation may be fact-based (i.e., that you did indeed wear a particular piece of clothing), the relationship is spurious.
Superstition can cover many spheres such as lucky or unlucky actions, events, numbers, and/or sayings. A working definition within our Western society could be a belief that a given action can bring good luck or bad luck when there are no rational or generally acceptable grounds for such a belief. In short, the fundamental feature underlying superstitions is that they have no rational underpinnings.
There is also a stereotypical view that there are certain groups within society who tend to hold more superstitious beliefs than what may be considered the norm. These include those involved with sport, the acting profession, miners, fishermen, and gamblers – many of whom will have superstitions based on things that have personally happened to them or to those they know well. Again, these may well be fact-based but the associations they have experienced will again be illusory and spurious. Most individuals are basically rational and do not really believe in the effects of superstition. However, in times of uncertainty, stress, or perceived helplessness, they may seek to regain personal control over events by means of superstitious belief.
One explanation for how we learn these superstitious beliefs has been suggested by the psychologist B.F. Skinner and his research with pigeons. He noted in a 1948 issue of the Journal of Experimental Psychology, that while waiting to be fed, pigeons adopted some peculiar behaviours. The birds appeared to see a causal relationship between receiving the food and their own preceding behaviour. However, it was merely coincidental conditioning. There are many analogies in the human world – particularly among gamblers. For instance, if a gambler blows on the dice during a game of craps and subsequently wins, the superstitious belief is reinforced through the reward of winning. Another explanation is that as children we are socialized into believing in magic and superstitious beliefs. Although many of these beliefs dissipate over time, children also learn by watching and modelling their behaviour on that of others. Therefore, if their parents or peers touch wood, carry lucky charms, and do not walk under ladders, then children are more likely to imitate that behaviour, and some of these beliefs may be carried forward to later life.
In a paper published in Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, Peter Darke and Jonathan Freedman (1997) suggested that lucky events are, by definition, determined entirely by chance. However, they go on to imply that, although most people would agree with this statement on an intellectual level, many do not appear to behave inaccordance with this belief. In his book Paradoxes of Gambling Behaviour, Willem Wagenaar (1988) proposed that in the absence of a known cause we tend to attribute events to abstract causes like luck and chance. He goes on to differentiate between luck and chance and suggests that luck is more related to an unexpected positive result whereas chance is related to surprising coincidences.
Bernard Weiner, in his book An Attributional Theory of Motivation and Emotion, suggests that luck may be thought of as the property of a person, whereas chance is thought to be concerned with unpredictability. Gamblers appear to exhibit a belief that they have control over their own luck. They may knock on wood to avoid bad luck or carry an object such as a rabbit’s foot for good luck. Ellen Langer argued in her book The Psychology of Control that a belief in luck and superstition cannot only account for causal explanations when playing games of chance, but may also provide the desired element of personal control.
In my own research (with Carolyn Bingham) into superstition among bingo players published in the Journal of Gambling Issues, it was clear that a large percentage of bingo players we surveyed reported beliefs in luck and superstition. However, the findings were varied, with a far greater percentage of players reporting everyday superstitious beliefs rather than beliefs concerned with bingo. Whether or not players genuinely believed they had control over luck is unknown. Having superstitious beliefs may be simply part of the thrill of playing.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Campbell, C. (1996). Half-belief and the paradox of ritual instrumental activism: A theory of modern superstition. British Journal of Sociology, 47(1), 151–166.
Darke, P. R., & Freedman, J. L. (1997). Lucky events and beliefs in luck: Paradoxical effects on confidence and risk-taking. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 23, 378–388.
Griffiths, M.D. & Bingham, C. (2005). A study of superstitious beliefs among bingo players. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Located at: http://jgi.camh.net/index.php/jgi/article/view/3680/3640
Langer, E. J. (1983). The psychology of control. London: Sage.
Skinner, B. F. (1948). “Superstition” in the pigeon. Journal of Experimental Psychology, 38, 168–172.
Thalbourne, M.A. (1997). Paranormal belief and superstition: How large is the association? Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 91, 221–226.
Vyse, S. A. (1997). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Wagenaar, W. A. (1988). Paradoxes of gambling behaviour. London: Erlbaum.
Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer-Verlag
This Christmas I managed to do a lot of book reading (most of it being David Bowie-related) and my favourite read was John O’Connell’s Bowie’s Books: The Hundred Literary Heroes Who Changed His Life (which If I’m nit-picking should actually be the 98 heroes because George Orwell and Anthony Burgess make two appearances each on the list), followed by Will Brooker’s Why Bowie Matters (a book I wish I had wrote because it was written by a Professor of Film and Cultural Studies and is a loose account of an academic spending a whole year trying to live like David Bowie as a piece of research). I also love lists so I thought I’d kick off the New Year with a list of the books that have shaped my academic life. This list was first published by The Psychologist (in 2018) but this blog may give my list a wider readership.
One of the most influential books on my whole career is Jim Orford’s seminal book Excessive Appetites that explored many different behavioural addictions including gambling, sex, and eating (i.e., addictions that don’t involve the ingestion of psychoactive substances). Jim Orford’s books are always worth a read and he writes in an engaging style that I have always admired. It was by chance that I did my PhD at the University of Exeter (1987-1990) where Orford was working at the time and since 2005 we have published many co-authored papers together. While we can agree to disagree on some aspects of how and why people become addicted, Jim will continue to be remembered as a pioneer in the field of behavioural addiction.
The Psychology of Gambling (by Michael Walker)
If there’s one book I’d wish I had written myself, it is this one. I did my PhD on slot machine addiction in adolescence but this book was published shortly after I’d finished and beautifully summarises all the main theories and perspectives on gambling psychology. My PhD would have been a whole lot easier if this book had been published when I first started my research career! I got to know Michael quite well before his untimely death in December 2009 (and he was external PhD examiner to some of my PhD students), and one of my enduring images of him was walking around at gambling conferences with his book clutched in his hand. Some of my colleagues found that a little strange but if I’d have written a book that good I’d have it with me at such events all the time!
I reviewed this book for the British Journal of Clinical Psychology (BJCP) back in the early 1990s and concluded by saying that it is a book that should be read by all therapists because its content can be applied to nearly all clinical situations and not just to those individuals with addictive behaviour problems. Motivational interviewing (MI) borrows strategies from cognitive therapy, client-centred counselling, systems theory, and the social psychology of persuasion, and the underlying theme of the book is the issue of ambivalence, and how the therapist can use MI to resolve it and allow the client to build commitment and reach a decision to change. In my most recent research I’ve used the basic tenets of MI in designing personalised messages to give to gamblers while they are gambling online in real time. I’ve now come to the conclusion 25 years after writing my BJCP review that anyone interested in enabling behavioural change should apply the tenets in this book to their work.
Even though this book was published back in 1992, I still tell my current students that this is a ‘must read’ book. Davies takes a much researched area of social psychology (i.e., attribution theory) and applies it to addiction. The basic message of the book is that people take drugs because they want to and not because they are physiologically addicted. The whole book is written in a non-technical manner and is highly readable and thought provoking. I often use Davies’ term ‘functional attribution’ from this book in my teaching and writings on sex addiction, and apply it to celebrities who use the excuse of ‘sex addiction’ to justify their infidelities.
Anyone that reads my blog will know that when it comes to the more bizarre side of sexual activity, my ‘go to’ book is Dr. Aggrawal’s book on unusual sexual practices. Others in the sexology field often look down their noses at this book but it is both enjoyable and informative and the kind of book that once you start reading you find it hard to put down again. A lot of academic books on sexual behaviour can be boring and/or impenetrable but this one is the polar opposite. The book also kick-started some of my own recently published research on sexual fetishes and paraphilias.
During my PhD, I remember watching the 1988 adaptation of David Lodge’s novel Small World. At the time, I had never heard of David Lodge but I went out and bought the book and was totally hooked. I then discovered that Small World was the second part of a ‘campus trilogy’ (preceded by Changing Places and followed by Nice Work). Since then I have bought every novel Lodge has ever published and he’s my favourite fiction writer (and I’ve bought and read some of his academic books on literary criticism). I love campus novels and through Lodge and devoured other university-based novels (including Malcolm Bradbury’s The History Man, Howard Jacobson’s Coming from Behind, and Ann Oakley’s The Men’s Room among my favourites).
Aggrawal A. (2009). Forensic and Medico-legal Aspects of Sexual Crimes and Unusual Sexual Practices. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Brooker, W. (2019) Why Bowie Matters. London: William Collins.
Davies J. B. (1992). The Myth of Addiction. Reading: Harwood Academic Publishers.
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Earlier this week, I was interviewed by the BBC about whether organisations should help individuals who have gambling problems and whether they should have a ‘gambling at work’ policy. Most of us work in organisations that have policies on behaviours such as drinking alcohol and cigarette smoking. However, very few companies have a ‘gambling at work’ policy. One problem gambler in a position of financial trust can bring down a whole organisation – Nick Leeson being a case in point when he single-handedly brought down Barings Bank). Leeson’s (albeit somewhat extreme) antics demonstrate that organisations need to acknowledge that gambling with company money can be disastrous for the company if things go horribly wrong. While no company expects an employee gambling to bring about their collapse, Leeson’s case does at least highlight gambling as an issue that companies ought to think about in terms of risk assessment.
Gambling is a popular leisure activity and national UK surveys into gambling participation show that around two-thirds of adults’ gamble annually and that problem gambling affects approximately 0.5% of the British population (although the prevalence rates for adolescents can be three to four rimes higher). There are a number of socio-demographic factors associated with problem gambling. These included being male, having a parent who was or who has been a problem gambler, being single, and having a low income. Other research shows that those who experience unemployment, poor health, housing, and low educational qualifications have significantly higher rates of problem gambling than the general population.
It is clear that the social and health costs of problem gambling can be large on both an individual and societal level. Personal costs can include irritability, extreme moodiness, problems with personal relationships (including divorce), absenteeism from work, family neglect, and bankruptcy. There can also be adverse health consequences for both the problem gambler and their partner including depression, insomnia, intestinal disorders, migraines, and other stress-related disorders.
For most people, gambling is not a serious problem and in some cases may even be of benefit in team building and/or creating a collegiate atmosphere in the workplace (e.g., National Lottery syndicates, office sweepstakes). However, for those whose gambling starts to become more of a problem, it can affect both the organisation and other work colleagues. Typically problem gambling at work can lead to many negative “warning signs” such as misuse of time, mysterious disappearances, long lunches, late to work, leaving early from work, unusual vacation patterns, unexplained sick leave, internet and telephone misuse, etc. However, new forms of gambling, such as gambling via the internet or smartphones at work, means that many of these warning signs are unlikely to be picked up. However, just because problem gambling is difficult to spot does not mean that managers should not include it in risk assessments and/or planning procedures. Listed below are some practical steps that can be taken to help minimise the potential problem.
- Take the issue of gambling seriously. Gambling (in all its many forms) has not been viewed as an occupational issue at any serious level. Managers, in conjunction with Human Resources Departments need to ensure they are aware of the issue and the potential risks it can bring to both their employees and the whole organisation. They also need to be aware that for employees who deal with finances, the consequences for the company should that person be a problem gambler can be very great.
- Raise awareness of gambling issues at work. This can be done through e-mail circulation, leaflets, and posters on general notice boards. Most countries (including the UK) have national and /or local gambling agencies that can supply useful educational literature (including posters). Telephone numbers for these organisations can usually be found in most telephone directories.
- Ask employees to be vigilant. Problem gambling at work can have serious repercussions not only for the individual but also for those employees who befriend a problem gambler, and the organisation itself. Fellow staff members need to know the signs and symptoms of problem gambling. Employee behaviours such as asking to borrow money all the time might be indicative of a gambling problem.
- Give employees access to diagnostic gambling checklists. Make sure that any literature or poster within the workplace includes a self-diagnostic checklist so that employees can check themselves to see if they might have (or be developing) a gambling problem.
- 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 easiest checks is to simply look at an employee’s list of “bookmarked” websites. If they are gambling on the internet regularly, internet gambling sites are almost certainly likely to be bookmarked.
- Develop a “Gambling at Work” policy. As mentioned at the start of this blog, many organisations have policies for behaviours such as smoking or drinking alcohol in the workplace. Employers should develop their own gambling policies by liaison between Human Resource Services and local gambling agencies. A risk assessment policy in relation to gambling would also be helpful.
- Give support to identified problem gamblers. Most large organisations have counselling services and other forms of support for employees who find themselves in difficulties. Problem gambling needs to be treated sympathetically (like other more bona fide addictions such as alcoholism). Employee support services must also be educated about the potential problems of workplace gambling.
Problem gambling can clearly be a hidden activity and the growing availability of internet gambling and gambling via smartphone or tablets is making it easier to gamble from the workplace. Thankfully, it would appear that for most people, gambling is not a serious problem. For those whose gambling starts to become more of a problem, it can affect both the organisation and other work colleagues (and in extreme cases cause major problems for the company as a whole). 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. Gambling is a social issue, a health issue and an occupational issue. Although not high on the list for most employers, the issues highlighted here suggest that it should at least be on the list somewhere.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
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