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Win, Lose, Repeat

4th August 2017

Guest blogger and counsellor Fay thinks about how we as humans make decisions, and how some decisions may be more harmful than others.

Excessive gambling can severely disrupt day to day life. Those experiencing issues with gambling are likely to become increasingly preoccupied and require ever increasing wagers to experience the same ‘rush’ they first felt. While the individual may recognise on one hand that their behaviour could be irrational, even dangerous, they may try to rationalise this or validate their gambling to diminish the uncertainty they feel.

This can be described as building incorrect heuristics. Heuristics are defined as the internal rules we use to explain our decision making, i.e. how we solve our problems or come to certain judgements.

Heuristics allow us to recognise a pattern and quickly form a conclusion. The danger is that while these rules may work well sometimes, if we ignore part of the information received our bias won’t lead to good decisions. As we are creatures of habit, we can begin to systematically ignore more logical choices and apply selective memory to justify our behavior.

One system for human decision making is rapid, deciding quickly and reactively. Here we may misinterpret things, overestimate our abilities, rely on incorrect analogies, trust gut feelings or try to predict future independent events based on past events...

Another system for human decision making is more reflective, where we process more information and take time to consider all the relevant factors before making a choice.

It’s important to understand and recognise that both systems are vital to our decision making and they often co-exist; for example, when you make your way home and unconsciously select a route while your mind is reflecting on something else.

We can’t make every decision based on reflective thought, but it helps if we become more aware of how we make our decisions. Gamblers who are experiencing compulsion believe they can predict events based on independent events in the past, and this a misconception which uses rapid decision making, gut instinct, without any reflective thought.

Gamblers can access GamCare services for support, to help them gain perspective about their behaviour, be that via our HelpLine or NetLine services, or through more in-depth counselling. We can help get you on the road to recovery – talk to us today.