Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
April 18, 2002
U of G researchers explore link between temperament, gambling
When it comes to gambling, individual temperaments and how a venue is designed may be predictors of whether people will behave irresponsibly, University of Guelph researchers say.
Consumer studies professors Karen Finlay and Vinay Kanetkar and psychology professor Harvey Marmurek are studying the role personality and environment play in problem gambling. "Casinos are often designed to make people feel submissive and to enhance emotional arousal," said Finlay, the principal investigator of the study, which is supported by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre. Elements that contribute to such feelings include identification checks and security officers, asymmetrical colours, and noise levels, she said.
"Temporal perception is also altered by not having any windows or clocks in gambling venues, so that individuals lose track of time and reality. We will be examining elements such as these to see what emotions they elicit in people and how they affect gamblers based on their individual temperaments and inherently different predispositions to respond to environments."
For example, it may be that design elements that are more domineering will have greater potential to make people who seek submissive environments develop problem gambling tendencies, she said. In contrast, people who prefer a sense of domination may be less vulnerable to problem gambling in such settings.
The researchers will focus on collecting information on specific aspects of gambling environments that may influence the emotions of gamblers. They will visit nine casinos and gambling facilities in Ontario and Western Canada - Orillia, Barrie, Toronto, Brantford, Campbellville, Niagara Falls, Flamborough and Ottawa - as well as Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada. "I am interested in finding out whether there is anything in these environments that keep problem gamblers thinking they have a chance of winning long past the time they should have realized the odds are against them," said Marmurek, whose expertise is in human cognition and control.
The professors will also interview architects experienced in casino design, which was the appeal for Kanetkar. "My background is in architecture, and we know from anecdotal evidence that space affects what we do," he said. "But we don't know for sure how we process the sequence of events that lead us to do different things...there is very little literature that documents how behaviour is affected by physical space and surroundings."
The goal is to get input from architects on venue design and on the range of physical and emotional scales that are developed when constructing such a facility. The researchers will eventually produce three-dimensional simulations of the interiors of a variety of gambling venues. These will be used in studies to predict human response and behaviour.
The researchers want their work to eventually be used in public education, to promote awareness among policy-makers, and for clinical treatment plans for problem gamblers. Those goals support the mandate of the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre, which invests in studies that will lead to improved understanding of problem gambling. The provincial agency is funded by two per cent of the revenues from slot machines at charity casinos and racetracks.
Finlay added that the researchers also aspire to influence design considerations of gambling environments. "It won't happen overnight, but we are hoping to eventually change the design of casinos so they're less likely to induce problem behaviour."
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