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Exp Aging Res. 2018 Mar-Apr;44(2):135-147. doi: 10.1080/0361073X.2017.1422474. Epub 2018 Jan 5.

The age-related positivity effect in electronic gambling.

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a School of Social Sciences and Psychology , Western Sydney University , Sydney , Australia.
b School of Psychology , University of Hagen , Hagen , Germany.



Older adults are increasingly spending time and money playing electronic gambling machines (EGMs). The current study assessed whether the age-related positivity effect influences responding to various EGM outcomes, including wins and losses of equivalent magnitude and frequency. We also explored cognitive mechanisms potentially underpinning the positivity effect.


We recorded the skin conductance response (SCR) of healthy older and younger adults while they played for wins, losses, and fake wins (losses disguised as wins). After every win and fake win, participants were forced to choose red or black to either double their win or lose it. They also provided ratings of enjoyment and excitement, estimated number of wins and losses, and completed measures of cognitive function.


Young and older adults demonstrated larger SCRs to wins relative to losses. When these wins and losses were of equivalent magnitude and frequency following a double-or-nothing scenario, only older adults responded more to a win than a loss. There were no age group differences in excitement and enjoyment, but older adults were more accurate than young adults in their recall of wins and losses.


During EGM play, young and older adults demonstrate similar patterns on autonomic arousal. However, young adults' responding suggests generalized excitement, whereas older adults respond more to the prospect of financial gain.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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