Capturing SCL and HR changes to win and loss events during gambling on electronic machines

Benjamin L. Wilkes*, Craig J. Gonsalvez, Alex Blaszczynski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


The role of physiological arousal is central to theories about the onset and maintenance of gambling behaviours including problem gambling. The range of possibilities suggested include tonic underarousal and phasic abnormalities such as hypersensitivity to reward and/or reduced sensitivity to negative consequences associated with losses. Among the various types of gambling, electronic gambling machines (EGMs) are associated with the large majority of gambling related problems. The demonstration that physiological changes associated with rapidly occurring win and loss events during electronic gambling can be reliably captured is fundamental to further progress in the psychophysiology of gambling. The current study monitored electrodermal and cardiac activities of twenty-four healthy participants to event outcomes (losses, fake wins, small wins and big wins) during a task on a real EGM. The results demonstrated that it is possible to reliably capture the profile of physiological changes as they occurred in real time to the many different win and loss events during electronic gambling. Relative to baseline levels, win events produced significant increases in skin conductance levels, (but not in HR) whereas loss events produced no significant changes. The study has important applications for further experimental and clinical research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-272
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Arousal
  • Electrodermal activity
  • Electronic gambling machines
  • Gambling
  • Heart rate
  • Psychophysiology


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