Danny McKeown, Guest Author at BestCasinoSites.net

Human psychology when playing slot machines

The fact that slot machines are designed to make casinos money is one that, logically, we all know. So there must be some level of ignorance to that fact in those who choose to play slot games.

There is a psychological term which explains this, called ‘cognitive dissonance’. This term essentially refers to a person disassociating themselves with the reality of a particular situation. In this case, ignoring the fact that they’re likely to lose money.

Casinos do not hide this information either. Regardless of whether you are playing at the best online slot sites or a real life casino, the return to player (RTP) rate for every slot game is visible.

The RTP rate is displayed in a percentage and indicates the best return a player can expect to get back from staking $100. If a game has an RTP of 96%, a player can expect to win $96 at best.

There are, of course, exceptions to this rule and this is the reason that all casino players gamble – to land that one big win. It can happen to anyone, at any time, and this is what keeps them coming back.

Slot machine psychology

It’s important to note that slot machine psychology is inherently designed to increase player frequency. There is one particular trick that is used that is referred to as ‘the near-miss effect’ when playing slots.

Something can be described as a ‘near miss’ when feedback for a loss approximates a win in a game of chance. For instance, matching two of three symbols on the reels constitutes a near miss.

Numerous studies have suggested that games which generate an approximate near miss rate of 30% encourage players to continue playing more. This isn’t an exact science, but it helps to explain the psychology behind slot machines.

The effect that near misses have on the psychology of slot machine players is a profound one. It creates a sense of anticipation that the jackpot win they’ve been waiting for is going to come soon.

This, of course, isn’t the case and isn’t something that can be predicted. Slot machines and online slots work off a random number generator programme, so there is no period when a jackpot win is “due” to happen.

The near-miss effect makes players forget about this fact however and actually encourages further play. It feeds into that belief that they could be the lucky one who lands the jackpot.

Slot machine design

When talking of slot machine psychology, one must also consider the design of slot machines and the mental impact it has on players. Slot machines are very specifically designed to entice players to start and continue playing.

The main way in which they do this is by using audiovisual cues. There is a reason why slot machines in casinos are huge in size, covered in lights and play loud music. It is to entice you in.

It doesn’t stop there, though. When a player hits a big jackpot win, the machine responds with flashing lights and celebratory music. This, combined with the sound of the coins falling out of the machine, creates a dopamine rush.

Players will also get a similar experience when playing online slot games, on which slot machine design psychology is even more important. They even make a simulated payout noise to emulate that of a real slot machine.

All of this is designed to keep you coming back for more. Even if you do win, the machine is designed to tempt you to put your winnings back into it in the hopes you’ll win again.

Bonus rounds and their frequency

Another way that game designers use slot machine psychology is by incorporating bonus rounds and bonus features. These features tend to offer incentives for players like free spins, or the chance to win more money.

Some games will be designed with more bonus symbols on the reels, to give the impression that players are close to the bonus round. This is another tactic used to ensure players continue wagering on spins.

You may even find that some games actually initiate the bonus round more than others. While this gives the impression that there’s more chance to win, it has no effect on the game’s baseline RTP rate.

When it comes to slot machines in bricks and mortar casinos, the addition of buttons also helps to create a sense of control for players. It’s of course impossible to control the outcome of a slot game, but the illusion is still present.

This illusion is also mimicked on online slots, which present the player with the ‘spin’ button option to activate the reels. They do this, even though the result of spin is predetermined by a random number generator.

Again, this is an effective use of slot machine design psychology. By presenting the option of whether or not to press the button, players are duped into believing this creates control over the outcome.

Physiological effects of playing slot machines

While a lot of slot machine psychology is theory based, there are some very real, tangible things that happen to the human body when playing slots. These effects come at a physiological level and influence player actions.

We already know that slot machines, real and online, are designed to trigger a dopamine response in the brain when a player wins. But how does this have an impact on how a player behaves?

Dopamine is the chemical that is released when a person feels pleasure and it lights up (metaphorically speaking) the reward pathway in the brain. This activation in the brain leads to players seeking that feeling again.

Equally, if a player gets that “high” from a win, but then goes a little while without it, they begin to crave that feeling. This could lead to players becoming reckless and chasing that illusive win and corresponding dopamine spike.

This is essentially the key ingredient in the psychology of slot machine addiction. Slot machines are designed to give this feeling of pure elation to players, which then encourages them to seek it out again.

Given that slot machines are ultimately designed to make casinos money, it’s not hard to see that this can be a recipe for disaster for players. One must exercise discipline and restraint when undertaking any form of gambling.

Conclusion to slot machine psychology

The psychology behind slot machines is fascinating and one which is likely to be debated for decades to come. Slot machines are supposed to be a fun distraction from the real world, but that’s not always the case.

By their very nature and design, it’s common for players to develop addictive tendencies towards these slot machines. So it’s important that you understand exactly what you are partaking in before getting started in the first place.

If you approach slot machine play in the right way i.e. knowing that it’s a game of chance and it’s more likely than not that you’ll lose money, then it becomes easier to enjoy.

Going to your local casino, or loading up your favourite online casino, and playing slots should be viewed purely as a means of entertainment. The difference being that there is a chance you could win some money back.

If you’re lucky enough to land a jackpot win, great! Take your winnings and enjoy it. Don’t fall into the trap of reinvesting your cash to hit the jackpot again. This is the key to avoiding problem gambling.

Don’t let this article deter you from enjoying slot games in the future, either. That’s not what we’re trying to do. In fact, it’s quite the opposite to that.

We want to make sure that everybody is able to enjoy slot machine games safely and responsibly, both online and in casinos. By understanding slot machine psychology, you’re taking a massive step towards doing that.

So, now that you know how and why slot machines are designed the way that they are and how your brain reacts to them, you can enjoy them without having to worry.

About the author

Name Danny McKeown
Job Freelance Writer Specialising in iGaming

Danny McKeown is a professional content writer who specialises in slots and poker. He expanded his expertise and worked for renowned companies in the iGaming industry.

Versatility, knowledge and passsion are the three factors that make a good content writer.

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