I can recall when my friends and I were one by one turning 18 there was a bit of a thing about being able to go into the area where the poker machines were at the local Club. When we were old enough, to head into the ‘adult area’ order a drink and play the machines a little. I remember thinking that putting money into a machine (with little to no chance of getting anything back) seemed like a strange thing to do and I was not interested in ‘throwing money away’ like that. And with no income of my own then, there was little to no chance I would do that. So I didn’t.
As years went on and I began my university degree and I learnt more about chance, odds and about how intermittent reinforcement was the most addictive kind of reinforcement for human behaviour-and exactly the kind of algorithm that poker machines used to get people to keep playing-my disinterest turned to something much less benign.
And once I began my career as a psychologist, I got to witness the impact of the these machines on those whose gambling had turned into an all consuming addiction. So I’ve seen the impact that a gambling addiction can have on peoples mental health, wellbeing, their families, their families finances and the community as a whole-and I knew for sure then, that those very early instincts to be uninterested and distrustful of those loud, ugly machines, to be the correct one for me.
So I’ve never put money into a machine or on a table, have never felt the interest or attraction, not even for ‘fun’ (because I do know that some people only play occasionally and do enjoy them). But for me, this early instinct, feels like it was a good one to have and to trust in.
And it also tells me, that sometimes NOT doing something can be the best action to take.