Alcohol intake can reduce gambling behavior

Greta Wagner, A. Timur Sevincer, Rebecca Keim, Marén Fähnrich, Gabriele Oettingen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Prolonged and risky gambling can have negative consequences financially and in health (e.g., developing an addiction). As gambling frequently occurs together with alcohol intake, we investigated whether we could reduce persistent and risky gambling under the influence of alcohol. Specifically, following alcohol myopia theory (Steele & Josephs, 1990), stating that intoxicated people's behavior is disproportionally guided by salient cues, we propose that making low chances of winning salient in a gambling situation should reduce persistent and risky gambling in alcohol intoxicated participants. In 3 laboratory studies, participants either consumed alcohol or a placebo. We made low chances of winning salient (vs. not) by explicitly displaying the low chances in large letters. Making low chances salient led intoxicated participants to gamble less persistently on a computerized slot machine (Study 1 and 2) and with less risk in a lottery game (Study 3) compared with sober participants and compared with sober and intoxicated participants in a control condition in which low chances were not salient. Moreover, using eye-tracking in Study 3, we found that the effect of alcohol on less risky gambling was mediated by intoxicated participants' greater attention to the salient low chances. Finally, we replicated the findings from our laboratory studies in the field: When low chances were made salient, the more alcohol bar patrons had consumed, the less persistently they gambled on a slot machine (Study 4). The findings have applied implications for reducing excessive gambling under the influence of alcohol by making low chances salient on games of chance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)832-885
Number of pages54
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Issue number7
StatePublished - Nov 2018


  • alcohol myopia
  • field experiment
  • gambling
  • nudge
  • risk-taking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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