Sex fuels the fire to gamble

April 05, 2008 10:46 PM
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by GT Staff & Wire Reports | Love may make the world go ‘round, but sex can fuel the desire to gamble.

That’s the message from a new study conducted at Stanford University and published in "NeuroReport." (Now, there’s a sexy-sounding publication!)

"In the immediate aftermath of that stimulation, men are consistently more likely to take bigger financial risks than they otherwise would. This is the first study to demonstrate that emotional stimuli can influence financial risk-taking," said lead author Brian Knutson, assistant professor of psychology.

In the Stanford study, heterosexual male undergraduates watched erotic images (triggering an elicit positive emotional response), snakes and spiders (for a negative response), and office supplies for a neutral response.

After watching each image, the subjects had to immediately decide if they gambled one dollar or 10 cents, in a game that always had a 50-50 chance of winning or losing. The subject had received $10 for gambling before the beginning of the experiment.

"We wanted them to care. We took that money back if they lost it. What we saw is that when they viewed the erotic pictures, the activation in their nucleus accumbens increased compared to the other stimuli, and also that they had increased activation in that region before choosing the high-risk gamble," said Knutson.

Statistic analysis showed that the increase in gambling behavior was indeed connected to positive stimuli (erotic, in this case).

These results go beyond gambling, explaining the targeting of the emotionally influenced responses, from advertising to politics.

"If you go to the casinos, people are wearing skimpy costumes, they’re giving you free alcohol, there are bells and lights and things like that, which don’t necessarily seem related to the odds of the gambling. But these are cues that might activate brain regions that encourage risk-taking and therefore get people to gamble more," said Knutson.

Indeed, the hot bimbo over the hood of the car could make you choose it. This happens in case they don’t leave you time to think.