Monthly Archives: July 2010

A positive experience: Take my money and then some!

Events interpreted as aversive tend to elicit effects that influence our response. So if an average individual is in a casino gambling and he or she is on a losing streak the response is likely to be to stop gambling–withdrawal. Generally speaking the purpose of the response is so that the individual will have money left over to get home. This sort of response, however, is bad for business and casinos are doing something about it.

What can casinos do to keep me gambling my money, you ask? A Radiolab reporter found that, for starters, casino workers can be very nice to you in effect giving you a positive experience. The next thing casinos can do is reward you with, not money (they keep that), but with random gifts such as gift cards etc. These gifts are not of major significance by any means but make a whole lot of difference in the long run. So much so, that the casinos are making the practice standard protocol for the purpose of keeping their customers returning to the gambling table.

How the effect works: van Steenbergen et al., (2009) found that randomly rewarding participants in a conflict adaptation task did not affect their performance, a negative effect was found for those that did not get rewarded or even lost. The reward in this context is perceived as attenuating the negative effect or experience of the event.  The idea is that the effect of losing while gambling can be counteracted by rewarding customers with other smaller gifts leading to a more pleasing experience.

Hear more : Radiolab—episode on Choice

Van Steenbergen, Band, & Hommel (2009). Reward Counteracts Conflict Adaptation: Evidence for a role of affect in the executive control.

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Free love is innocent?Think clearly before you do it!

Free love has not ruled since the 1970’s but apparently unprotected intercourse among not only young adults but also older unmarried Americans is on the rise. According to a recent A.A.R.P. study of singles in the 45 plus category, only 12 percent of the sexually active single men and only 33 percent of sexually active women report using condoms. The behavior of having unprotected sexual intercourse provides a very interesting puzzle, as a high proportion of adults are aware of the possible negative consequences of having unprotected sex, and that individuals can greatly reduce their risk of causing a pregnancy or of  contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) by using a latex condom. It is worthwhile to examine the reasons underlying this failure to use condoms as unprotected sex raises the risk of STD among people across all ages.

 According to previous research, intentions to use condoms clearly do not always translate into condom-use behavior. Ambivalent attitude towards sexual activity is one factor which could explain the inconsistence between intention to use condom and condom using behaviors. MacDonald and Hynie’s study (2008) indicated that participants who were ambivalent about sexual activity were more likely to engage in unplanned sexual activity than were participants who were not ambivalent. Furthermore, individuals who engaged in unplanned sexual intercourse were less likely to report that they used a condom than those who intended to have sexual intercourse. As a result, whether sexual activity was planned mediated the relationship between ambivalence and condom use. It seems reasonable that people who are less ambivalent about sexual activity are more likely to plan and correctly predict when they will have sexual intercourse, which allows for important preparatory behaviors (e.g., having condoms available).

More are doing it, less are using protection

MacDonald, T.K. & Hynie, M. (2008). Ambivalence and Unprotected Sex: Failure to Predict Sexual Activity and Decreased Condom Use. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 38, 1092-1107.