The Psychology of Gambling

There are two general views on what gambling means to the psychological makeup of human beings: One, that gambling is a form of deviant behavior; And two, that gambling is an extension of normal behavior.

Psychology of Gambling

Many people presume that gambling is abnormal or detrimental to ones self interest. Those who espouse these ideas usually focus their concern on unconventional and strange modes of gambling, such as the criminal rings who use the revenue from gambling to support their illegal activities. These people also question, due to their unfamiliarity, the practice of risking money on uncertainties, such as the stock market. They do not seem to understand the concept of making speculations about the economy, and in taking calculated risks with investments. As to their definition of gambling, there is a difficulty in pinpointing what they consider it to be – Whether it is as conventionally defined, or, whether it is what they consider to be “unreasonable” risk taking. Their differentiation between what they consider to be reasonable and unreasonable often sits on the notions whether work is productive or not, whether forfeitures resulting from bad decisions can be regained, whether the decision making process is based on tangible and sound evidence, and whether investment practices are voluntary or are demanded by normal phenomenon.

Psychologists and behavioral scientists have some interesting ideas about the methods of clinically diagnosing gamblers. There are some who claim that gambling is an expression of a pathological and/or neurotic individual, which can only be treated by psychological reformation. This reformation includes an encouragement of the gambler to use introspection to look at their childhood, current fears and past hardships – sometimes accompanied by the use of prescribed drugs. There are some psychologists who believe that “Lady Luck” symbolically replaces a gamblers mother, and/or, represents the motherhood state in general. The reason why behavioral scientists say gamblers cannot quit while they are winning is because they desire to actually lose their money, so as to be punished for unresolved tensions and internal conflicts in their lives. In other words, on a deep psychological level, these “true” gamblers want to lose all their money so that they can reach a state of nothingness and despair – All initiated by a past action that the gambler has not resolved in the subconscious, resulting in an overwhelming sense of guilt.

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When gambling is looked upon as a natural extension of what it means to live, rather than a form of misguided behavior, motives for gambling are believed to be more instinctual and rational. In other words, in this light gambling can be looked upon as a leisure activity; And most psychologists agree that leisure is essential in living a well balanced life. The simple fact that gambling games are frivolous to a certain degree is precisely what makes them enjoyable to a gambler. The idea of betting money is tempting and exhilarating; However, this feeling is not exclusive to all gamblers. More often than not, after losing money on a poorly decided wager (as opposed to a pathological decision), a gambler will continue to keep betting in hopes of recouping their losses. Therefore, it is not a matter of wanting to lose. Gambling is also popular for the entertainment value it offers. Although online gamblers are not so much concerned with this aspect, many Vegas casino goers find this to be an essential atmosphere in their gambling ventures. Those who defend against governmental attacks on gambling state that the main reason gambling is associated with crime is because many governments use propaganda tactics to give gambling a criminal definition, rather than one befitting a simple, everyday activity proper for a normal life.

The psychology of gambling can be best understood if one examines the two extreme views regarding what gambling is. On one hand, there are those who view gambling as a disease and sickness, while on the other hand, there are those who see gambling so involved in and integral to the daily affairs of humans, that it requires no interpretation or moderation. Finding a stance between these these two sides, whether it is a balanced stance or not, has been the task of many governments in countries where gambling is tolerated to any degree whatsoever.

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