Throughout my academic career, I have always been interested in how the design of environments affects human behaviour. Given that my primary research area is the psychology of gambling and that my most passionate hobby is listening to music, it probably won’t come as a surprise that I have carried out research into the effect of music on gambling behaviour.
The effect of music has been studied extensively in commercial contexts (particularly advertising and retailing). Many research studies have shown that music has the capacity to affect consumers’ perceptions of a particular environment, their intended and actual purchase behaviour, and time spent in a particular environment. Advertisers and marketers use such knowledge to help target their consumer group. Psychologists Adrian North and David Hargreaves have noted in many of their papers that music may have the capacity to modify psychological arousal or induce relaxation. A number of studies have supported this claim through various investigations into the arousal of music.
Highly arousing music has been characterised as loud, unpredictable and with a quick tempo. Low arousing music in contrast is soft, predictable, and has a slower tempo. The more the music is able to produce arousal in individuals, the more pleasurable it is for them, and the more likely it will be their preference. Musical tempo is another area within the field of music that has generated empirical research. A variety of reports from participants and consumers have described fast tempo music with a variety of adjectives, indicating it as happier, pleasant, joyous, exhilarating. Studies manipulating the tempo of music have found that faster music leads to more positive judgements of advertisements, enhances effects on the performance of tasks, leads to faster movement, and higher arousal levels. Slow music has the opposite effects resulting in more relaxing, solemn adjectives being used when participants described it.
As both a structural and situational characteristic in gambling behaviour, the role of music has become more apparent in the last decade. Many slot machines now have musical interludes. This makes them generally more appealing, especially if they are familiar. Researchers (including myself) have consistently argued that sound effects can contribute to the encouragement of gambling.
Back in 2003, Dr. Jonathan Parke and myself published a book chapter examining the environmental psychology of gambling in the book Gambling: Who Wins? Who Loses? (edited by the sociologist Gerda Reith). A small part of that review speculatively examined the role of music in facilitating gambling behaviour. We noted that at the time we wrote the review, no research has been carried out on the topic (and that research was obviously needed). A couple of years later, we published a paper in the Journal of Gambling Issues and reported a number of observations based on our experiences of enaging in participant and non-participant observation in amusement arcades and other gambling venues.
We argued that auditory effects have the capacity to make a slot machine more ”aesthetically appealing” to individuals and this differentiation could be a deciding factor when choosing a machine. We also hypothesized that music has the potential to facilitate, stimulate, maintain and exacerbate gambling behaviour in some individuals. This could be due to the fact that familiar music may induce a feeling of enjoyment as it is recognisable to the individual and thus may entice them into playing (something that I had noted in an earlier paper that I wrote with David Dunbar in a 1997 issue of the Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter). The music played when one wins is distinctive and memorable and could also lead to further plays. In short, music has the capability to increase confidence, modulate arousal and relaxation and help the player to disregard previous losses.
In 2007, I published a study in the journal International Gambling Studies that I carried out with Laura Dixon and Dr. Richard Trigg investigating the role of music in gambling behaviour. In our experiment, 60 participants played virtual roulette in one of three conditions.The three conditions were (i) no music, (ii) slow tempo music,and (iii) fast music (20 participants in each condition). Tengames of roulette were played with speed of betting, amountspent across high, medium and low-level risk bets and totalamount spent recorded. Their results showed that speed ofbetting was influenced by musical tempo with faster bettingoccurring while listening to higher tempo music.However, there was no relationship between musical tempo and either the size of the bet or the overall amountspent. Although not carried out in a casino, we believed our findingsprovided valuable insight into how background music can bemanipulated to increase the speed of gambling.
In 2010, along with Jenny Spenwyn and Dr. Doug Barrett, I published another study examining the effect of music on gambling in the International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction. This study (as far as we are aware) was the first ever empirical study to examine the combined effects of both music and light on gambling behaviour. While playing an online version of roulette, 56 participants took part in one of four experimental conditions (14 participants in each condition); (1) gambling with fast tempo music under normal (white) light, (2) gambling with fast tempo music under red light, (3) gambling with slow tempo music under normal (white) light, and (4) gambling with slow tempo music under red light. Risk (i.e., the amount of money spent) per spin and speed of bets were measured as indicators of gambling behaviour. We found significant effects for speed of bets in relation to musical tempo, but not light. We also found a significant interaction between light and music for speed of bets. In short, we found that fast tempo music under red light resulted in individuals gambling faster gambling.
Most recently, some of my research colleagues in Norway, led by Dr. Rune Mentzoni, published a paper in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions that also examined music’s effect of gambling behaviour. Like our studies, they carried out a laboratory experiment. Their study comprised101 undergraduate students who played a computerized gambling task inwhich either a high-tempo or a low-tempo musical soundtrack was present. It was reported that: low-tempo music was associated with increased gambling persistence in terms of overall number of bets placed, whereas high-tempo music was associated with intensified gambling in terms of faster reaction time per placed bet. Based on their results, they concluded that high-tempo music is associated with more risky gambling behaviour (by increasing gambling persistence and by reducing reaction time for bets placed).
From the empirical literature published so far, there does appear to be some evidence to suggest that the gambling environment may be manipulated by the use of sound of music (as well as other characteristics such as light and colour) and that such situational characteristics may affect gambling behaviour. However, the empirical base, is limited and further research is needed before reaching any definitive conclusions.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Caldwell, C. & Hibbert, S.A. (1999). “Play that one again: The effect of music tempo on consumer behaviour in a restaurant. European Advances in Consumer Research, 4, 58-62.
Dixon, L., Trigg, R. & Griffiths, M. (2007). An empirical investigation of music and gambling behaviour. International Gambling Studies, 7, (3), 315-326.
Dube, L., Chebat, J.C. & Morin, S. (1995). The effects of background music on consumers desire to affiliate in buyer- seller interactions”, Psychology and Marketing, 12, 305-319.
Griffiths, M.D. & Dunbar, D. (1997). The role of familiarity in fruit machine gambling. Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter, 29, 15-20.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed), Gambling: Who wins? Who loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2005). The psychology of music in gambling environments: an observational research note. Journal of Gambling Issues, 13. Available at: http://jgi.camh.net/doi/full/10.4309/jgi.2005.13.8
Hebert, S., Beland, R., Dionne-Fournelle, O., Crete, M. & Lupien, S.J. (2004). Psychological stress response to video game playing: the contribution of built in music. Life Sciences, 76, 2371-2380.
Kellaris, J.J. & Kent, R.J. (1993). An exploratory investigation of responses elicited by music varying in tempo, tonality, and texture. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 2, 381-402.
Mentzoni, R. A., Laberg, J. C., Brunborg, G. S., Molde, H., & Pallesen, S. (2014). Type of musical soundtrack affects behavior in gambling. Journal of Behavioral Addictions, DOI: 10.1556/JBA.3.2014.006.
Milliman, R.E. (1982). Using background music to affect the behaviour of supermarket shoppers. Journal of Marketing, 46, 86-91.
Milliman, R.E. (1986). “The influence of background music on the behaviour of restaurant patrons. Journal of Consumer Research, 13, 286-289.
North, A.C., & Hargreaves, D.J. (1997). Experimental aesthetics and everyday music listening. In D.J. Hargreaves & A.C. North (Eds.), The Social Psychology of Music. pp.84-103. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Parke, J. & Griffiths, M.D. (2006). The psychology of the fruit machine: The role of structural characteristics re-visited. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 4, 151-179.
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.
Spenwyn, J., Barrett, D.K.R. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The role of lights and music in gambling behavior: An empirical pilot study. International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, 8, 107-118.
“Well, while I’m here I might as well have a flutter”: Gambling venues and the use of intrinsic association
Back in 1978, Derek Cornish published a book that included the first review of situational characteristics in gambling. One of the characteristics – although not given an explicit name – was later termed by Dr Jonathan Parke (Salford University) and myself as “intrinsic association”. Intrinsic association basically refers to the degree to which the gambling activity is associated with other interests and attractions. For example, betting at a sporting event at which the gambler would normally attend anyway. In casino terms, this could refer to gambling on a slot machine as an ancillary activity to being in the casino for other reasons (e.g., being in there to see a live music show or boxing match, dining out with friends). Another variation of this is “proximity play”. This could be described as participating in an activity as a consequence of it being located next to something else that the person was doing (e.g., being in the casino primarily to play blackjack but going on to play a slot machine instead).
The association between gambling and sport also has implications, primarily the ability to class gambling as a subtype of sport that in turn leads to the attribution of social respectability. In his review, Cornish also argued that sporting interests may often act as a pathway to gambling. Individuals can be introduced to gambling in attempt to make the sporting experience more entertaining and enjoyable. Gradually, the enjoyment from betting at sporting events can transfer to into more familiar environments and to other types of betting. Sport is another way that gambling can expose itself, and provide the potential gambler with another opportunity to gamble if one did not previously exist or appeal. Therefore, in addition to be potentially being a pathway to gambling, association with sport is also a mechanism through which gambling can be made socially acceptable.
These other amenities (e.g., the provision of food) have the potential to prolong gambling activity. Jonathan Parke and I assert this is of particular importance to problem gamblers since they:
- Often gambling for long periods of time.
- Are often reluctant to leave a slot machine or the roulette table to get a drink or food, or go to the toilet as they are often chasing losses do not want to lose their lucky seat or favorite machine.
For instance, in a New Zealand study reported by Ralph Gerdelan, thirty bars that housed slot machines were compared with another thirty that did not. In the bars without slot machines, almost all of the clientele drank pints of beer. However, in the bars with slot machines, only 8% of the clientele drank pint measures. The main reason for this was that slot machine players did not want to leave the machines to go to the toilet in case someone ‘stole’ their machine. The gambling treatment specialist, Joanna Franklin has also reported that a proportion of her female clients had developed bladder problems as a result of their prolonged slot machine gambling, Again, these gamblers are holding off going to the toilet because they do not want to lose “their” machine, and allegedly damaging their bladder in the process.
There is currently no empirical evidence to show that offering refreshments prolongs gambling behaviour, and it could be argued that offering refreshments forces gamblers to take a break as they will eventually need to use the bathroom. Furthermore, if refreshments are offered in the form of a sit down meal rather than a take away option, then making use of such facilities would ensure a break from gambling behavior. Although a refreshed gambler may stay at a gambling venue for longer periods, engaging in a meal would offer a period of contemplation (i.e., a reflective time out) that could be useful for a vulnerable player. However, problem gamblers may be unlikely to spend money on a meal and may favour spending their money on gambling instead.
Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK
Cornish, D.B. (1978). Gambling: A review of the literature and its implications for policy and research. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Gerdelan, R. (2001, April). Problem gambling in New Zealand. Paper presented at the Innovation 2001 Conference, Canadian Foundation on Compulsive Gambling, Toronto, Canada.
Griffiths, M.D. (1994). The observational analysis of marketing methods in UK amusement arcades. Society for the Study of Gambling Newsletter, 24, 17-24.
Griffiths, M.D. & Parke, J. (2003). The environmental psychology of gambling. In G. Reith (Ed.), Gambling: Who wins? Who Loses? pp. 277-292. New York: Prometheus Books.