Thursday, 12 April 2018

Fat Teddy Bears, Lying and Alcohol

I guess these three words could be described as the good, bad and ugly. I would imagine most people have partaken in owning a teddy bear, drinking alcohol and even lying. 

It makes me wonder who is the person who still has all three going on as an adult, especially if a man. I have this scenario in mind of a toy collector (bears), who lied about the price he paid for this Stieff bear, which tormented him so much that Mr Bear Collector turned to alcohol.  I'm sure you could imagine lots of story lines. 

Plenty of people have lied or turned to alcohol when gambling goes wrong. But I wonder what they would say if you ask how they are...

As always, everything in moderation and remember that willpower is a good foundation to build reason, logic and responsibility. 

So what does psychology tell us about these three things:

Did you know, 1 in 5 women and 1 in 20 men admit to sleeping with a teddy bear. 

Lier, lier....

Do you know the most common lie? 

''I'm fine''

As many as 9% of adult Americans have been to Alcoholics Anonymous meeting at some time in their life. 

Fat Teddy Bears. Well, lets talk about fat in general - piling on the pounds. Posting a calorie chart in fast food restaurants leads people to choose less healthy options

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Habits, Daydreams and Influence

Dream in a bottle
Habits. They can be good or bad. Even a good habit can turn bad so it's a tricky subject. 

Psychologists detail that is takes 66 days to form a habit. Bet for 65 and stop. But that suggests gambling is a negative. For many it is most certainly a problem they could do without. Addiction is a bad habit. Interesting that psychologist say it take 10,000 hours to become an expert in a subject. So you get a habit many moons before you become an expert. 

Daydreams. I guess even people who say they never dream, daydream more than they think. So what are you daydreaming about? Becoming a professional gambler? Perhaps dreaming about traveling the world with all that money. Not to say that it is a bad thing to walk through your mind. So what percentage of our days are spent daydreaming. It's a significant amount at 30%. 

But how easily are we influenced? I mean, if I can look you in the eye how easy would you think I could be influenced? It's a strange one but in some respects an obvious one too. Part of the human condition which often reveals a falsehood. 

You believe I am more easy to influence than you. And I believe the same about you.

When you consider these three aspects of life it really makes you realise that we are at the mercy of so many factors and why understanding them can help negate or accept their impact.   

Monday, 26 March 2018

5 Ways Psychology can Improve your Gambling

Psychology – the study of behaviour and mind. I think you will agree it is a fascinating subject because it helps identify new wisdom, understanding and advancement of the human condition. I have always been interested in the other side of the coin. How can we use psychology to actually improve our chance of winning? It's a topic of conversation that I have heard very little news. However, I have spent many hours reading psychology books from a quantitative and qualitative perspective and these tips can help you win when betting on the horses.
1) The chair you sit It sounds a crazy idea but research has shown that the chair you sit when making your tips can be the difference between winning and losing. Or, at least, improving your chances of making it a profitable day. It was found that people sitting on a harder chair were harder negotiators than those who sat in comfort. 

2) Be careful who you listen to You may not realise it, but you are influenced without knowing. The racing paper, TV channel, opinions and thoughts can easily sway your judgement. If you have good reason to follow your tip – don't be swayed. 

3) Become an expert Can the novice punter be better than the expert? It is said that it takes 10,000 hours or study to become an expert of any subject. Make sure you put in the hours and especially work within a niche. It will give you a huge advantage over the opposition. 

4) I followed that horse off a cliff We've all been there. I bet on that horse the last three times so I can't afford to let it go by today. You probably didn't realise but this is psychology at work. You are much more likely to bet on an old favourite horse that new name because of this previous relationship. However, you need to keep this point in mind as all too often this type of horse disappoint and become very costly to follow. 

5) The Contrast Theory This is worth noting. How many times have you seen one horse beat another only to see them re-oppose next start. Take a look at the betting. The beaten horse is likely to be a bigger prize. Not a surprise you might say. But how big are the odds? The human condition details that we often make mistakes in this area and favour the previous winner much more than we should to a level where the outsider of the two horses is a value bet. If the horse looks to have a reason why it could improve: going, distance, jockey it may be the bet. 

The next time you place a bet, take a moment to consider how psychology may have helped or hindered your chance of winning.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Attracted, Threatened & Bored by Your Eye Contact

Nonverbal communication. It was first scientifically researched in 1872 by Charles Darwin in his book The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.  

It can tell you more than you think. How about eye contact? Is that bookmaker looking at you in a certain way? 

So what does eye contact, or more specifically the time someone looks in your direction, mean? 

If someone measured the amount of eye contact by percentage, you may be receiving some very mixed messages.

If you are talking about the form of a given race at Kempton and your mate is looking at you 60% of the time you're not doing a very good job of convincing him. You can bet that the person is bored.

So that friend is looking at you quite intently, an extra 20%, perhaps. What does it mean? They fancy you. 

This last occurrence may happen if you have given a few losing tips. So what does eye contact cranked up to 100% mean? 

It's not good news. The boredom has gone beyond attraction and now we are talking one thing.

You are being threatened.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

How Much do you Want to Talk?

Have a word
Words. Where would we be without them? I know some people just stick two fingers up or one to get their message across. 

However, words are powerful. 

How much do you talk each day? If I counted your words, just how many words would you say in 24-hours? 


We all know someone who chats far too much. I have moments of being quiet and then chatty like a chatter box. You... Chatty Man Thing. 

So how many words does the average person say in a day?







Did you know the average person's word count per day ranges from 12,500 - 22,000.

The latter number for women and the former for men. 


I Bet You Cry

Psychology. I think many of you will agree, it is a fascinating subject. The study of behaviour and mind. Whether quantitative or qualitative methodology. Which basically mean studied from a scientific method (using a standardized method with data) or something as simple as reading a diary. There are many and varied ways psychology can find interesting facts.  

I've been reading 100 Amazing Psychology Facts. The world is full of information which makes you question. Is that true?

You could win money with this strange fact. 

To win you have to make someone cry. This will amaze you. Even from a distance, I can tell if someone is crying happy or sad tears. 


Sounds kind of amazing hey. 

How can that be possible? 

Surely tears are tears? Well, until I read this today, I would have thought exactly the same. 

Sad and happy tears are somehow different!

Research has show that when crying from happiness the first tear will come from the right eye but if crying from sadness the first tear come from the left. 

Now, what are the odds of that?

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Not Eating The Marshmallow Made Me A Better Gambler!

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Gambling and children don't mix. But children and sweets - well that is a different matter. All those temptations. No wonder I've always struggled to stop my craving for a curly wurly whenever Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is screened. I used to put it down to Gene Wilder's singing. However, I've discovered that resisting sweets as a child could have made me a better person - perhaps an intelligent gambler. 

The Stanford Marshmallow Experiment brings insight to why your children should wait for their sweets. In 1972 Walter Mischel of Stanford University run an experiment about deferred gratification.  The study was to understand when the control of deferred gratification develops in children. But what does the ability to wait for something we desire relate to in later life? 

Let's first learn a little more about the study. The children sat by a table, empty of distractions, where a marshmallow was placed in front of them. (Tempting!!!) The children were told they could eat the marshmallow but if they waited for 15 minutes, their reward would be a second marshmallow. 

Over 600 children took part in the experiment. Only a minority ate the marshmallow immediately. Of those who waited (deferred gratification) one-third waited long enough to get the second treat. 

Follow-up studies, 1988 and 1990, showed that ''pre-school children who delayed gratification longer in the self-imposed delayed paradigm, were described more than 10 years later by their parents as adolescents who were significantly more competent'' and the ability to defer gratification also correlated with higher SAT scores. 

Perhaps I should have waited a little longer for all those things I wanted as a child?  


Saturday, 3 March 2018

Life's A Bitch When Betting From Your Deck Chair

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This chair I'm sitting feels a little hard. As I'm getting on in years (joke) perhaps I should give a comfy rocker a test drive. That's a rocking chair not an affluent, long-haired bloke with an electric guitar. That deck chair on the beach looks inviting. The sound of the sea, gulls calling... peace and harmony. The perfect situation to take your phone from your pocket and place a bet. 

I guess you are wondering why I'm talking about chairs. After all, this website is about the psychology of gambling not a subdivision of Ikea. Trust me, if I thought I could sell you a chair I would have a link to one of those Han's Wegner wonderbars (basically a super cool chair). But wait a minute, check out the chair you are sitting this moment because it might have a little more importance than you thought.

Psychology and the influence of the unconscious mind is becoming an important factor of understanding the human condition and particularly how this relates to our modern world. Whether we like it or not, psychology is becoming a tool of advantage to the extent that companies are paying fortunes with regard to the fascinating world of neuromarketing.

So what about that chair? Well, for the first time I can tell you that a chair isn't just something you sit on. All those years and I just hadn't seen the wood for the chairs. So what's your favourite seating arrangement? A Han's Werger, stool, bean bag or the classic poof? I don't think I would have the confidence to go into a shop and ask for a classic poof! But back to the chairs. More importantly, where do you sit when watching the racing, football or whatever sport tickles your fancy? Being specific, have you ever considered that the chair which you sit may change your betting performance? I must admit - even with my interest in psychology - I hadn't considered this point until reading an article written by Jeremy Mercer: Exploring the Promise and the Perils of the New Unconscious.

In 2009, a group of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology took part in a study on ''bargaining techniques''. The students were seated in an office, shown a car listed at $16,500 and told to get the best possible price. Offers were made and rejected, deals struck, and then the students went on their way, from what seemed a straightforward negotiation.

However, this experiment was rather remarkable in the fact that it tested whether people could be unconsciously influenced through the sense of touch. Basically, could the chair that you sit have an influence on your behaviour? Half of the students sat on hard wooden seats while the others sat on soft cushioned chairs. It was found that those sitting on hard chairs were less flexible in their negotiations and offered less money - on average $347 less - to purchase the car. 

It was concluded that hard surfaces make people ''harder'' when negotiating because the hardness triggers concepts of stability, which the unconscious brain translates into a more confident bargaining position. This ''hard chair effect'' is part of new research which unlocks the mysteries of the human unconscious and the power it can harness. 

Next time you consider a bet, take a moment to consider how your environment may effect your unconscious mind. With further research, it is possible bookmakers may be using this new technology to hinder your success. 

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Bet You Buy The Red Car

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What's your favourite colour? Red, blue, orange, purple? In truth, it could well be anything from the spectrum. You know, I'm sure if George Orwell had been looking at colour charts instead of writing Animal Farm he would have made this famous quote: ''All colours are equal, but some are more equal than others.''  I would hazard a guess that if you went to buy a car you'd pick the red one over the brown? Whether we like it or not, our preference for certain colours is based within biology and psychology. 

Have you been influenced by the mysterious power of colours? If you're not careful colours could addle your mind and turn your brains to a bright green jelly. 

Now let's face it, we just instinctively know more buyers would choose the red car. It's the same as someone offering you a plate of biscuits - that bright green one spiked with food colouring may stand out from the crowd but it may as well have been touched by a leper's hand for all the likelihood it will be eaten. 


How about a drink of brown tomato juice? Wait a moment while I take it back to the kitchen and pump it full of artificial colours. You just can't get enough of that new bright red concoction. 

Blimey! These colours are making me behave irrationally. 

Colours are rooted in our emotional responses. But what could this mean from a gambling perspective? 

Is that why lady luck invites us to bet on the grey horse even though it has terrible form? I saw that lucky black cat this morning so I'm betting on the horse with noire in its name.  

In 1973, biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky, observed that ''nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.'' 

An article published in 2010 by psychologists Palmer & Schloss tested the theory that human colour preference is adaptive. That people are more likely to survive and reproduce successfully if they are attracted to objects with colours that ''look good'' to them and they will avoid colours which ''look bad'' to them. 

I'm never going to look at those coloured lottery balls in the same light again. However, if blue has always been lucky for you then don't be surprised if you fancy Chelsea for a football flutter. Perhaps that isn't such a surprise when most people favour colours associated with the sky and clean water. 

Would you dive into brown water? 

Their study found that brightly saturated colours were preferred over the same hue that were muted or pastel. Brown and green were significantly less preferred than orange and yellow. Bright blues, reds and green were the mostly highly favoured colours. 

But are these colour preferences based on nature or nurture? Interestingly, researchers found that Japanese colour preferences were different from American suggesting a cultural origin. 

Importantly most colours are associated differently in relation to different objects. You wouldn't have any qualms about drinking chocolate milk because it's brown.

However, all this research and our preferences can give greater insight to why - at times - we make certain decisions. 

The next time you consider a gamble, take a moment to consider if the colour of the team shirt, the racing silks or your liking for red on the roulette table is really a rational decision?

Martin Seligman said magenta was his favourite colour because of the amazing effect of the colour on the human body. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

You Moody Bastard

I woke up this morning in a terrible frame of mind. But something happened and now I'm so positive I could burst. But why? It is surprisingly easy to change someone's mood especially in the short term. In Marieke de Vrie's research participants were show two video clips - The Muppet Show (good mood) Vs Schindler's List (bad mood). People reported that their moods where significantly elevated after the Muppets compared to significantly lowered after Schindler's List. Importantly, their mood
affected their actions for the rest of the research. Think how such findings could impact on your betting. A positive mind is a winning mind. Each morning, start your day by remembering a brilliant winning bet. How did it make you feel? Hungry for the next big win? Before placing those bets be inspired.

Saturday, 17 February 2018

He's Backed Every Favourite Since 1973

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When you make a decision it seems natural to think you have weighed up all the factors. Let's say you considered a bet. You think the horse has winning form. It likes the ground. Good jockey. The price is better than you thought and looks value. Job done. Well, that's the logic, hey. However, research suggests there may be a problem. Our decision making is mostly unconscious. Now you may consider that is a load of old rubbish. ''I know what I think!'' But

 consider how these aspects may influence your ''decisions''. 

Are you influenced by what others say? The paper favourite? What does that bloke from the Racing Post have to say? You maverick doing your own thing. In an instant you can appreciate how social validation plays its part.  The difficultly is that so much of our ''decision making'' is ingrained, habitual, implicit that even trying to make it conscious is no easy task. As Sigmund Freud would say: ''We are trying to make the unconscious conscious.''

Your past behaviour will affect how you behave in the future? It most likely will unless you can appreciate why you behave in such a way. Have you noticed the bloke in the bookies who only bets on the favourite? Every time it's a favourite. He may try and mix it up a little with a cross the card double (but it's still two favourites). But why? We like to stay true to ourselves and so we follow a personal commitment to do just that. Take a read of our post: I followed That Horse Off A Cliff

Boy, you will be waiting a long time for Uncle Harold to take out his mat and do some break dancing.

Back an outsider? Fu*k Off!!!!!

But what else? Do you follow a tipster even though he has been in terrible form of late because he had a good winner last year. I owe him. Or your mate took your advice last week and he's really keen on this horse  and would you believe it's in the same race as mine. That reciprocity can turn your mind. But so too can your ''decision'' never to trust anyone's advice but your own (talking to myself here).

However, this doesn't mean your thinking is faulty, irrational or bad. It's simply that our conscious mind cannot cope with all the data it tries to process. Our unconscious mind has evolved to do the job. For the most part it does it well. It's not a tyrant trying to teach us a lesson for being a naughty child. It trusts it makes a decision in our interests. That's the ''gut feeling''. 

Probably the best way to appreciating how we make decisions is to keep a diary. Not so much about our selection or bets but how we got to that point. This is much more difficult than it sounds but it can be revealing especially if you notice a pattern of behaviour keeps cropping up. 

What do you think, Sigmund?

Friday, 16 February 2018

I've Had A Souper Idea

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Did you realise that we are living in an age of unconscious influence? I'm sure from reading our articles you appreciate that all is not what it seems with what we consider freewill. However, is this reality of choice all but an illusion? In truth, that is quite a frightening thought although we would probably be unaware of its implications. It is only upon reading such articles that we would even question. Psychology - its use as a tool

 for advantage - is a hot topic and a subject which is likely to have great implications for us all over the next few decades. If the greater part of our behaviour is governed by unconscious influences then finding the key to this hot wiring of the brain  could be a seller's dream. The power of advertising can work wonders on selling whether by way of TV advert, radio jingle or a banner flashing on a website. 

I don't know about you, but I have noticed a number of TV adverts which capture my attention. The recent Sky TV advert with Jennifer Aniston. ''It's a doddle, doddle, doddle...'' Itches nose is a strange fashion. Claps hands together pretending to kill a bug. With innocent yet super human strength she throws a door off its hinges. There is something very strange going on, hey.

You will notice more and more adverts which have great significance on us remembering and ultimately buying products. However, wouldn't you like to know what is the importance of certain behaviours, sounds and graphics upon our humble mind? Without question we can guarantee that something as simple as saying a catchy slogan while banging a hand on a table may seem all very innocent but I would hazard a guess that someone has paid thousands of pounds to research why it sells a product fast. These winning technique which influence the unconscious mind to ''buy, buy, buy'' are closely guarded secrets. The new buzz word for many advertising companies is neuromarketing. 

Retailers are willing to pay big money to please your unconscious mind. Basic findings that you are more likely to open a letter which features a regular stamp rather than a mark from a franking machine are good for starters. You are even more likely to open it if handwritten.

In truth, the power of the unconscious mind is hardly a new subject matter. Playto described these influences as winged horses dragging us in different directions. 

As we have noted before, the unconscious mind is very much the workhorse of our brain because is can cope with an astounding amount of data compare to our conscious understanding. Its brilliance is akin to us standing in a thunderstorm and consciously trying to count the raindrops. The unconscious mind takes about half a second to filter the most important information to the conscious mind. 

Bargh conducted an experiment where participants took part in personality assessments after holding either a hot coffee or an iced coffee. The hot coffee group unanimously rated people as friendlier and more open. He concluded that the warmth evoked concepts of comfort in the conscious mind.

At the Advertising Week conference in New York City, the NeuroStandards project captured much interest. Here unconscious research has given rise to ''neurosuppliers'' where businesses promise to maximise the unconscious impact for advertising campaigns and product packaging. However, it is difficult for marketing personnel to evaluate what can only be described as a very complicated science. The fact that companies such as American Express, General Motors & others sponsored this project indicate its influence. Roger Dooley, who runs the blog Neuromarketing said: ''At this stage I'd say neurosuppliers will eliminate 50% of the adverts that don't work.''

Campbell's soup hired neurosuppliers to assess the unconscious responses to their new labels. While New Scientist magazine asked a company called NeuroFocus to pick the cover to their August, 2010 issue. Nineteen participants were shown potential cover illustrations while being monitored by EEG. The highest rated cover advised by NeuroFocus - a wispy image of an unravelling galaxy - saw sales 12% higher than for the same issue a year earlier and higher than the 2010 average.  

It is interesting to consider how such neurosuppliers will work within the gambling industry? Take note of bookmaker advertising campaigns and try to assess the impact they have on you.

Friday, 2 February 2018

What You See Is What You Get?

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It's impossible to live among other people and not be influenced by them in some way. Sometimes, others attempts to change our thoughts or behaviour are obvious, such as a policeman telling you to pull over as you drive down the street. However, on other occasions social influence is less direct. Sometimes the mere presence of others can influence our behaviour by inhibiting or enhancing it. But what is conformity? Crutchfield (1955) defined it as: ''yielding to group

pressure''. While Zimbardo & Leippe (1991) said: ''conformity is a change in belief or behaviour in response to real or imagined group pressure when there is no direct request to comply with the group nor any reason to justify the behaviour change''. 

Group pressure is the common denominator in definitions of conformity. 

Jenness (1932) is often cited as the first experimental study of conformity. Jenness asked individual students to estimate the number of beans in a bottle, and then had them discuss it to arrive at a group estimate. When they were asked individually to make a second estimate, there was a distinct shift towards the group's estimate. 

Moscovici et al. used groups of six participants, of whom four were naive and two were stooges. The stooges played the role of the minority. Before the experiment began, participants' colour vision was tested. They all passed. This meant that the naive participants couldn't eplain the stooges' wrong answers by claiming they were colour-blind. All participants gave their answers out loud. The stooges sat either in the first and second position, or first and fourth. On 36 separate trials, slides that were clearly blue but which differed in brightness. The stooges called it green every time. This yielded a 'green' response rate of over 8 per cent among the naive participants.        

How do others influence your gambling?

Thursday, 29 November 2012

You Can't Influence Me!

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Research in the field of social cognition suggests that priming may considerably influence our behaviour. Primes may influence our mood and behaviour without us being aware of them. Bargh et al. (1996) asked participants to arrange lists of words to form meaningful sentences. In the experimental group, each word list contained a word related to the concept of old age: wrinkled, ancient... Participants were

surreptitiously timed as they left the laboratory after completing the task.

Those in the experimental group, who had been exposed to the elderly primes, left the laboratory more slowly than those in the control group, who were not exposed to the primes. Bargh et al. argued that the primes activated a stereotype of old age and participants behaved in accordance with that stereotype even though they had not noticed the primes. 

Neumann and Strack (2000) showed that people' mood can be affected by the mood of others around them, even when they are unaware of their mood change or its cause. When participants listened to text read in a sad voice, they were more likely to rate their own mood as sad but were unaware that their mood had changed as a result of listening to the sad voice.

Liberman (2000) argues that implicit cognitive processes, such as priming of stereotypes and mood states, underlie what we commonly know as intuition. 

Consider how such finding affect your betting. From being in the room of someone saying they made a mistake when placing a bet to reading of a failed gambler's tales. Fill your world with positivity. 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Did You See It?

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Cognitive psychologists Daniel Simons and Christopher Chabris (1999) revealed how people can focus so hard on something that they become blind to the unexpected, even when staring right at it! ''Inattentional blindness'' illustrates how easy we miss details when we are not looking out for them. This classic study asked participants to focus on a video of people passing basketballs. Half of the players were dressed in black while the others wore white. The participants were asked to count the number of passes 
made by the players dressed in white while ignoring the players dressed in black. However, the most startling aspect of this research is that many participants failed to notice a player dressed in a gorilla costume walk as cross the stage, beat his chest, and walk out of sight. To all purposes, the gorilla had turned invisible. Although people try to rationalise why they missed the gorilla it is hard to explain such a failure of awareness without confronting the possibility that we are aware of far less of the world than we think.

It's Your Choice...

So it's a close call between your favourite teams playing at the weekend. In fact, you can't pick between them. But from a psychological perspective, what can we learn from such a choice? Well, Shafir (1993) has shown that choosing one of two things is not the complement of rejecting one of the two things. Sometimes when deciding between two options, people both select and reject the same option. When we are trying to select an option we tend to focus on positive features and when we are looking for reasons to reject we tend to focus on negative. Thus, positive features will be 
selected over negative. However, failing to resolve conflict can also be revealing. The economist, Thomas Schelling, tells of an occasion when he went to buy an encyclopaedia for his children. At the bookshop he was presented with two attractive encyclopaedia and finding it difficult to choose between them, went home with neither - despite the feeling he would have happily bought either if it had been the only one available. Unresolved conflict can cause people to defer choosing because they lack a clear reason to select either option.  

Monday, 26 November 2012

Expert Vs Novice: Place Your Bets Now

So what's your selection? You know, to even contemplate such a task takes considerable knowledge, let alone successfully finding the winner! But wait a minute. How come my mate Joe seems to be ahead of the game? In fact, he seems to have the bookies on the back foot. He's been banned by many. I guess you could call him a professional gambler. But is there a difference between how an expert and novice solve problems?  While it is obvious experts know more than novices, until recently the lay person's view of the expert might presume their skills were due to a superior mental capacity rather than a vast body of specialist knowledge. 

However, there has been a shift in emphasis with ground-breaking research regarding chess skills. The chess analogy is interesting because not only does it investigate problem-solving strategies but it has the focus of the adversary opponent. 

De Groot (1946/65) conducted a series of chess studies which conflicted with the assumption that skilled problem solvers must have superior information processing skills.  He asked five grand masters & five skilled chess players to think aloud as they studied a chessboard and choose a move. If grand masters used such superior information processing they would be expected to make broader searches for their next move. Interestingly, evidence illustrated there was no qualitative difference between the expert and novice. The difference between the two groups was unremarkable - the grand masters simply made the better moves.  Players were  shown chessboards with pieces arranged from actual games. The boards were presented to players for a short time and then removed. They were asked to construct the board positions from memory. The grand masters constructed the board almost without error while the novice faltered (91% - 41%). Skill level was linked to the amount of information remembered about the chessboard positions. Further research from Chase and Simon (1973) suggest experts not only posses more knowledge but it is organized in more meaningful and readily accessible ways.    

Larkin et al (1980) were interested in the possible strategic differences between experts and novices. They asked expert and novice physicists to solve a range of physics problems. They found that experts tended to use a working forwards strategy. Using the information to derive a solution. Novices use a working backwards strategy starting with the goal. In gambling terms this would amount to thinking ''I must find the winner''.

It appears experts use their knowledge to generate good problem representations which support working forward strategies while novices rely on trial and error.

It is often said 'practice makes perfect'. But what researchers noticed many years ago that performance improves with practice in a very systematic and predictable way. The 'power law of practice' has been known for a long time. Practice seems to be a factor in the development of skills over a range of activities.  Performance improves with practice because individual task components are executed more efficiently; sequences of task components are executed more efficiently & qualitative changes occur in representations of task structure.    

Performance improves with practice because the time to recovery memory is reduced and importantly sequences of units or chunks. In addition, performance improves because the task is restructured.

But how much practice is needed to achieve excellence? Ericsson et al. (1993) have given ten years as a ballpark figure for attaining high levels of performance in a variety of areas (chess, mathematics, violin playing). Ericsson (1991) suggests that it takes at least ten years to reach the international level of performance in sport, the arts and sciences. Simon and Chase (1973) estimated it took 3,000 hours practice to become an expert and around 30,000 hours to become a chess master. Many of those who achieve excellence start at a very young age simply because it takes such a long time to acquire the necessary knowledge. 

However, it is possible to train participants to improve on their best performance. Ericsson and Harris (1990) trained an individual who was not a chess player over a period of 50 hours to recognise chess positions almost as accurately as some chess masters. Although Ericsson and Polson (1988) found, practice itself is not a guarantee of superior performance. In their study, the waiter most skilled in remembering orders used more effective encoding strategies compared to equally experienced counterparts. The critical point is not how much practice individuals have, but what they actually do while they are practising the skill. (This point will be explored in our next article.)

Friday, 23 November 2012

10 Killer Quotes

Gambler's Psychology Kit is about two subjects: gambling & psychology. What better way to inspire, question & debate enquiring minds than these ''10 Killer Quotes''. ''The more you know, the less you need to think'' (Greene, 1987) "He had the calm confidence of a Christian with four aces." (Mark Twain) ''At first the confusion was total and very frightening to him. Once he held a chocolate in the palm of one hand, covered it with the other for a few seconds until its image disappeared from his memory. When he uncovered it, he thought he had performed a magic trick, conjured it up from nowhere. He repeated it again and again, with total astonishment and growing fear each time.'' (Baddeley, 1990) talking about Clive Wearing who suffered brain damage after a rare viral infection. "They gambled in the Garden of Eden, and they will again if there's another one." (Richard Albert Canfield) ''The BaMbuti pygmies live in the dense rainforests of the Congo, a closed-in world without open spaces. When a BaMbuti archer was taken to a vast plain and shown a herd of buffalo grazing in the distance, he claimed he'd never seen such insects before. When informed that the ''insects'' were buffalo, the archer was offended.'' (Price and Crapo, 1999)   

"It can be argued that man's instinct to gamble is the only reason he is still not a monkey up in the trees." (Mario Puzo, Inside Las Vegas) 

''Participants were asked to examine a list of health problems and to state 'Compared with other people of your age and sex, are your chances of getting [the problem] greater than, about the same, or less than theirs?'' Most believed they were less likely. Weinstein (1983, 1984) called this unrealistic optimism.

"When a gambler picks up a pack of cards or a pair of dice, he feels as though he has reduced an unmanageable world to a finite, visible and comprehensive size." (Annabel Davis-Goff, The Literary Companion to Gambling) 

''As a person, you are the configuration of your brain cells...Drugs are specifically designed to alter that configuration. So when you blow your mind on drugs, you really are blowing your mind. They may not kill you, but they may dramatically alter the person you are.'' (Greenfield, 2000)

"Guessing has never been widely acclaimed as a good gambling strategy." (Dr. G) 

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Do You Remember A Horse Called Reminiscence Bump?

Take a moment and think back to one of your most memorable race days. It could have been a favourite horse, a winning bet or a day when everything you touched turned to gold. Now consider that memory retrieved from a period when you were aged 10 to 30 years? This phenomenon is known by psychologists as the reminiscence bump. It is distinguished by an increase in recall of memories relative to memories that precedes it and those that follow. There have been dozens of studies  leading to researcher David Rubin to say: ''It is one of the most reliable empirical observations in cognitive psychology.''  Interestingly, the reminiscence bump may be observed in different types of autobiographical knowledge.  Sehulster (1996) noted recall of films, while other researchers highlighted books, music & public events. Rubin et al., (1998) indicated that these memories are more accurate & important than memories from other time periods and rated highly likely to be included in one's autobiography. So the next time you are talking to middle-aged or older adults about horse racing stories don't be surprised if they fall within this golden age of memories. Most typically, the period of 10 -25 years of age. 

The reminiscence bump is not dominated by first time experiences but idiosyncratic experiences to individual rememberers. However, contrary to earlier research, Holmes & Conway (1999) suggested that such memories are not more vivid (the idea that memory encoding is at its peak efficiency during this period). These memories are not always of pleasant experiences. The key aspect is that no special effort is made to recall them. A more complex explanation was given by Rubin (2002). He hypothesized that ''Events from the bump period are remembered best because they occur when rapid change is giving way to relative stability that lasts at least until retrieval''. In essence, these novel experiences more fully engage encoding processes and become highly accessible.  Fitzgerald (1988) proposed that many memories are of self-defining experiences. 

What is your horse racing reminiscence bump?

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Bet I Can Throw A Six

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I know it's illogical but I've cracked it! After hours of practice I am confident I have increased my chance of throwing double six. It's a great little system: the harder I throw the dice the higher the score; slower then lower numbers appear. It works like magic. I can't wait to get down the casino & clean up. Well, that's what some people would have you believe and for all of its madness is it a 
phenomenon which many a bettor may use in their assessment when gambling.

Ellen Langer named this psychological effect as the illusion of control. It is a tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events even when it can be demonstrated they have no influence at all. It is a behaviour often seen in gambling and known as one of the positive illusions. This cognitive bias can also be seen within illusory superiority with regard to intelligence, performance on tasks and tests, and the possession of desirable personality traits. This phenomenon is studied in social psychology.

The illusion is more common in familiar situations where the person knows the desired outcome. If a player of craps is initially successful this feedback is likely to increase the effect, while failure may decrease or reverse it. This resembles irrational primacy effect in which people give greater influence to information that occurs earlier in a series. In stressful or competitive situation the illusion strengthens control especially when there is an emotional need to an outcome. Intriguingly, this confidence is overestimated in games determined by chance but individuals often underestimate their control when they hold an advantage. Langer's research demonstrated that participants are more likely to throw a dice harder when they need a higher number and softer for lower numbers. This study has been replicated with lottery tickets. Participants who had chosen their lottery ticket were more reluctant to part with it even when they could trade it for another with a higher chance of paying out. They were also less likely to swap tickets if they had familiar symbols ( lucky numbers, birthdays etc). It is important to remember that these tickets - although random - were instrumental in the  behaviour affecting their win chance.

Langer explained her findings in terms of confusion between skill and chance situations. In essence, participants' judgements were based on ''skill cues'' and made all the stronger when associated with games of skill. However, Suzanne Thompson proposed that judgements about control were based on an intention to create an outcome and a relationship between the action and outcome. This can be seen with playing slot machine where there is an intention to win but also an action by pressing a button. This control heuristic could be seen with the old-style one armed bandits which a player would change their style with regard to a given ''need'' (I'm always lucky when I do this behaviour...) The self-regulatory theory suggests we cope with a lack of control by falsely attributing self control of the situation.

Taylor and Brown argue that positive illusions are adaptive as they help motivate people to persist at a task when they might give up. In fact, optimistic self-appraisals of our capability can be advantageous but only in situations where control is possible. 

Damn That Lucky Black Cat...

Studying compulsive gamblers who were seeking treatment at the National Problem Gambling Clinic, the researchers found that those gamblers with higher levels of impulsivity were much more susceptible to errors in reasoning associated with gambling, such as superstitious rituals (e.g. carrying a lucky charm) and explaining away recent losses (e.g. on bad luck or 'cold' machines). The findings were published today, 29 June, in the journal Psychological Medicine.  

The research, funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), took place at the National Problem Gambling Clinic which opened in 2008 and is the only NHS funded service for disordered gambling in the UK. While gambling is a popular form of entertainment for many people, problem (or 'pathological') gambling is a recognised psychiatric diagnosis affecting around 1% of the UK population. Symptoms include a loss of control over gambling, withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, and various negative consequences, including gambling debts and family difficulties. Dr Luke Clark, from the University of Cambridge's Department of Experimental Psychiatry, said: "The link between impulsivity and gambling beliefs suggests to us that high impulsivity can predispose a range of more complex distortions – such as superstitions - that gamblers often experience. Our research helps fuse these two likely underlying causes of problem gambling, shedding light on why some people are prone to becoming pathological gamblers."

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London, compared 30 gamblers seeking treatment at the clinic with 30 non-gamblers from the general population. The researchers asked the participants a series of financial questions involving trade-offs between smaller amounts of money available immediately versus larger amounts of money in the future (e.g. would you prefer £20 today or £35 in two weeks?) to test impulsivity. The gamblers were significantly more likely to choose the immediate reward despite the fact that it was less money. (Psychologists define impulsivity as a preference for the immediate smaller rewards on this task.) Additionally, a questionnaire showed that gamblers were particularly impulsive during high or low moods, which are frequently cues that can trigger gambling sprees.

While aspects of the 'addictive personality' have been identified previously in studies of problem gambling, the novel finding in the British gamblers was that those gamblers with higher levels of impulsivity were also more susceptible to various errors in reasoning that occur during gambling, including an increase in superstitious rituals and blaming losses on such things as bad luck. 'Times New Roman', serif;">Like treatment-seeking gamblers elsewhere in the world, the group from the National Problem Gambling Clinic were predominantly male, and experienced a moderate rate of other mental health problems including depression and alcohol abuse. Dr Clark added: "There are promising developments in treatments for problem gambling such as psychological therapies and drug medications. We hope that our research will provide additional insight into the problem and inform future treatments."

Emotion: The Gambler's Enemy

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Bookies rely on emotion to fill their coffers. Think about the big race meeting for example the pageantry, the noise, the carnival atmosphere. Do you think that this evolved by accident? It’s all engendered to create a mob mentality, to get people going with the flow. Logical methodical thought is the bookies enemy. Someone who is having a good time, caught up in the party atmosphere, or indeed they may be scared that they’ll lose the weeks housekeeping if their ‘sure thing’ doesn’t come in. In either case, emotion rules, logical thought and planning doesn’t get a look in.

Professional gamblers, who by definition take a different approach, are regularly banned by bookies up and down the country. Bookies don’t like to lose, and they lose to professionals who don’t play the game by their rules. 

So what’s the trick? Are some people just born cool? Almost certainly. However, being ‘cool’ is a trick that can be learned. A basic understanding of body mechanics and mental control are all that’s required. When people get emotional, whether happy, sad, excited or scared, the way that the blood flows around the brain changes subtly. Without making this a lesson in biology lets just say that those parts of the brain that deal with emotion are most active during these times. However, the problem for us is that these parts of the brain claim the majority of the available resources, energy, oxygen etc. This deprives other parts of the brain and consequently they don’t work as well until the situation redresses and a balance is achieved. This includes those parts of the brain that deal with logical thought and communication, which are separate from the emotional centres. So how to we create that balance ourselves so that we stay in charge of our own brains? Learning a simple process of self hypnosis calms the mind/body system and switches off or calms down unhelpful emotional responses. There follows a set of specific instructions on how to use basic self hypnosis techniques to achieve this, you’ll probably be amazed at how simple it is, and that you probably already know how to do it. You just didn’t recognise it as self-hypnosis.

Start by taking three very slow deep breaths, in through the nose, hold for a mental count of two, then exhale slowly via the mouth without forcing, almost like a sigh. Make the out breath longer than the in breath. Its important when doing this to relax the tummy muscles so that you fill your lungs to the bottom. Most of us breath to the top our lungs, which is shallow breathing. This type of breathing actually predisposes us to an emotional reaction. Slow deep breathing on the other hand is associated with calm.

Once you have calmed your breathing down then you can begin to use the power of your imagination through visualisation exercises.

Imagine yourself being calm and focused. You are not affected by noise, or pressure, or atmosphere. You are about to make a rational decision. You’re going to place a bet on a horse which has a reasonable chance of winning. You’ve either decided this yourself, based on totally logical factors, or you’ve taken advice from someone you trust. You don’t care what the horse’s name is. Nor do you care about any other extraneous factors. You are making your decision based on factors such as past performance, the going that day and the jockey.

Of course physical and mental preparation are only part of the skill set needed to beat the bookies. Professionals make best available use of the skills of other professionals. Once you have mastered the necessary self-control and are no longer controlled by your emotions you make better decisions. I would like to thank Neil for his comment on Twitter: illusion of control: Why gamblers throw dice harder when trying to for a higher number and softer for a low.