How do we know when to walk away from fruit machines?
Fruit machine rental is not only a good way to add an extra income stream to your premises; it can also be an intriguing opportunity to do some people-watching.
In particular, what makes experienced players walk away sometimes, and put an extra coin in the slot on other occasions?
The answer could be more than just knowing the game’s usual sequences – in fact, there could be a lot going on in their subconscious, to decide whether it’s worth spinning the reels one more time.
Scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory simulated this type of process on rats, by rewarding them for choosing one of two doors behind which an odour had been placed.
When only one door had a strong odour, the rats were correct – and got a reward – almost all of the time, but when the second door had a distracting odour of its own, they had to gamble on which they thought was correct.
The scientists saw the rats waiting for up to 15 seconds – a long time in rat terms – to receive their reward when they had made the right decision.
In humans, as in rats, this type of decision takes place in the orbitofrontal cortex, and playing fruit machines is fundamentally similar to the rats ‘gambling’ on which door had the strongest odour.
With this in mind, the scientists suggest that the decision to keep playing is simply inspired by the player’s level of confidence in achieving a win – and when that confidence is not high enough, that’s when it’s time to walk away.