Pigeons and poker machines

pigeon_holes[1] B. F. Skinner, arguably the most famous psychologist after Freud, made a remarkable discovery in 1948. Using pigeons in a cage, he gave them food pellets through a dispenser but used an important condition – the food pellets were given at regular intervals but it was not related in any way to the pigeons’ behaviour.

Something very remarkable happened to the pigeons – of the eight pigeons, six began an elaborate series of behaviours before each pellet. One bird would turn counter-clockwise three times. Another would repeatedly thrust its head in the direction of the same corner in the cage.

Once the behaviour has been established the pellets can be dispensed less regularly, even hours between each one, and yet the behaviour continues.

While humans and pigeons are different in many regards, this experiment has some interesting implications for understanding human behaviour, notably gambling.

We know that payouts from poker machines are in no way dependent on the behaviour of the player and yet how many patterns do players create?

Certain machines are used above others as they were once associated with a win. Players will try and use certain patterns in their playing such as increasing the bet because in the past when they did this, the machine payed out.

Understanding the random nature of poker machines, as well as the percentage that is returned to player (less than what is put in) can help in overcoming a problem with these machines.

A qualified and experienced psychologist can help work through these issues. You can access FREE help here or by calling 1800 858 858.

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