Why are people attracted to slot machines? It seems like an easy enough question. They are brightly coloured with flashing lights, sound effects and animations, not to mention all the different cool themes you can get and the chance to win a lot of money- what isn’t to like about slot machines? However, after some thorough investigations conducted over time, research has concluded that there is a deeper, more profound and psychological reason as to why people love to play slot machines.
Everything about a slot machine entices a person in. Let’s start with the rates that a slot spins- usually 15 or 16 times in the space of a minute. After standing transfixed to a slot machine for so long, eventually you begin to syncopate your breathing to the spins of the slot machine. Breathing in time with each of the 15 or 16 spins slows a player’s breathing right down to a rate that is similar to the breathing rate of someone who is meditating. This helps the individual to relax and really get in the zone of the slot machine- in the same way that meditating can take you to a ‘zone’.
Furthermore, the movement of the reels causes our eyes to move up and down in a repetitive action- similar to that of someone who is being hypnotised. This action causes most players to get enveloped in the game for longer than is probably healthy, making them feel like they absolutely love the slot machine game they’re playing.
Slot machines are also random, and human beings are absolutely useless when it comes to dealing with random behaviour. We like to have a pattern, a way of life to follow, rules and structures. Slot machines have no rule and no structure and this really throws us off. In an attempt to understand it, we try to apply patterns to the game and convince ourselves that we understand how it works and that we know what’s going on- this keeps us hooked on wanting to ‘solve’ the game more.
Finally, it just feels good to play on a slot machine. Any kind of gambling releases a huge burst of dopamine, and gambling on a slot machine is no exception from this. The dopamine makes us feel good and also generates a feeling that we want to keep feeling, getting us hooked on slot machines to keep chasing that next burst of chemical from our brains.