The present study compared three methods of motivating participants’ gambling behavior in a laboratory environment. Thirteen university students played in three sessions of video poker, which differed in whether participants were 1) asked to play “as if” gambling real money, 2) staked with real money, and 3) in competition with other participants for a gift card. Also measured was whether participants’ reported annual income would influence their gambling behavior under these conditions. Results showed that the number of hands played and the accuracy of game play did not differ across the different sessions. The number of credits bet, which is a metric of risk, was significantly different across sessions. Participants bet the least credits when they were playing for actual money or competing for a gift card, but their betting did not differ between these two conditions. Results also showed that all dependent measures varied directly with annual income. The present results suggest that using competition for a prize may produce similar gambling behavior as having participants risk actual money, and may have the benefit of being more cost efficient. The results also suggest, however, that gambling researchers should measure their participants’ financial status, as that may influence how participants behave in laboratory experiments on gambling.



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