The Role of Craving, Executive Cognitive Functioning, and Hunger in Gambling

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Sztainert, Travis




Disordered gamblers often persist in the face of loss, and report an inability to stop gambling despite repeated efforts. One possible reason for this continued gambling is poor executive cognitive functioning (ECF). Specifically, gamblers may lack the ability to control and regulate their behaviour. This paper examines the role of craving to gamble and hunger in producing ECF deficits and increased problem gambling behaviour. In Study 1 (N = 26), participants were allowed to gamble on a virtual slot machine until voluntary cessation, after which craving to gamble was assessed, and ECF was
assessed using the Iowa Gambling Task (IGT). A proxy measure of hunger was used based on the temporal distance between the experiment start time, and noon (typical lunchtime). Results revealed that craving and hunger interacted to predict ECF deficits. Specifically, those with high levels of craving and hunger preformed the worst on the IGT. In order to determine causation, Study 2 (N = 49) manipulated craving using a cue reactivity paradigm. Craving was then assessed, as well as hunger and ECF using the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task (WCST). Results revealed that those cued with gambling
related stimuli had higher levels of craving, and that those with high levels of craving and hunger preformed the worst on the WCST. Study 3 (N = 49), exposed all participants to gambling related stimuli, and used a fasting paradigm to manipulate hunger. Craving to gamble, hunger and ECF using the WCST were assessed, and participants were given the opportunity to gamble on a multi-line slot machine. Craving to gamble and hunger interacted to predict persistence at play on the slot machine in the face of continued loss. Specifically, participants high in craving to gamble and hunger engaged
the longest in play. Implications for feeding prior to play are discussed as a possible, easy to implement, responsible gambling strategy.


Psychology - Social
Psychology - Cognitive




Carleton University

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