The Effect of Music on the Gambler’s Psyche

Music has always evoked a powerful emotional response in the human psyche. A certain song can transport us through space and time to a long-forgotten memory. A beautiful cello sonata can bring a tear to the eye of even the most stoic of listeners. And the beating of a drum can move through our bodies with such force that it feels like a spiritual awakening.

Movie producers have long understood the power of a film score to help the audience understand the nuances of a story. And TV advertising executives were quick to catch on to the idea that the right background music in an advert could elevate a product and help it sell. It’s not surprising then, that online casino software companies are also using music in a specific way to affect the way gamblers interact with certain games, and both online and land-based casinos are using music to affect the way a gambler moves within a casino. If you start to pay attention to the way music is used in any collection of casinos, you’ll soon see that the choices are far from random.

Music on the Casino Floor

Ever since the early days of the Las Vegas strip, casino bosses have understood that music and gambling go hand in hand. It’s no coincidence that all the big casinos invite huge music stars to take up residency in their casino resorts. But music is not just part of a casino’s entertainment strategy. Music is used on the casino floor to encourage gamblers to spend more money. Specific sounds are used within games to entice players to keep spending money. The use of music in gambling has long been a science, but its only in the last decade or so that scientists have actually begun to study the connection between the two.

The Rat Casino

In 2016, the University of British Columbia released their initial findings on an experiment conducted using what they dubbed a ‘rat casino’. In the rat casino, rats were trained to make choices that could result in being reward with a treat. These choices were akin to gambles, and the scientists noted that when the rats ‘gambled’ for a treat, they almost always avoided the options where the odds were stacked against them. In the 2016 paper, the scientists refer to what happened when music and flashing lights were introduced to the rat casino.

According to Department of Psychology associate professor, Catharine Winstanley, the music and the flashing lights had an immediate and startling effect on the rat’s behavior. The rats began to gamble in the way we would associate with problem gamblers – the rats were more engaged and took bigger risks. Another area of the study focuses on the dopamine receptor in the brain that is associated with addiction. When the rats were given a drug to block this receptor, they no longer reacted to the music and the lights with ‘problem gambler’ behavior.

Low-Tempo Vs High-Tempo

Further studies, such as the 2005 paper ‘The psychology of music in gambling environments: An observational research note’ by Dr. Mark Griffiths, Nottingham Trent University, and the 2014 study on ‘How Music Affects Behaviour In Gambling’ supported by the Norwegian Research Council, support the theory that music has a direct effect on a gambler’s psyche. In the latter’s case, they found that the background music on a casino floor had a direct relation to the way people gambled. When the background music was low-tempo, people gambled for a longer period of time, but when the music was high-tempo, people gambled more aggressively; their reactions were quicker and they were more likely to make risky bets.

The Familiarity of Music in Slot Games

Slot games provide the best examples of the way software companies use music to encourage gamblers to spend more money. One of the most common ways to do this is to obtain a license to use the soundtrack of a movie or a TV show. When a player hears music in a slot game that they associate with a popular TV show or movie, they are more likely to be drawn to said slot game. The association adds an element of legitimacy to the slot game, and the player is more likely to feel comfortable placing real money bets. The same can be said for slot games that partner with famous rock bands and musicians.

The Sound of Winning

The sounds that emanate from a slot game are also integral to the experience. When a player hits a winning payline, the bells and whistles associated with winning are set at just the right pitch to get a player all worked-up with excitement. The sounds are specifically designed to leave a player wanting more, and to fill them with the sense that anything is possible. And when players feel like anything is possible, they tend to spend more money and make riskier bets.