Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Rehabilitation

First Advisor

Dixon, Mark

Abstract

The current set of experiments sought to address a variable involved in slot machine gambling that has been termed the near-miss effect. In the present paper, the conceptual underpinnings of this `effect' were examined from a behavioral as well as a non-behavioral psychological perspective. The experiments and rationale for conducting them were prefaced with an in-depth analysis of problem gambling in general including prevalence, demographics, etiology, assessment, and treatment. A comprehensive review of behavioral analytic investigations on gambling in the areas of programmed contingencies, structural features, verbal behavior, the near miss effect, and treatment components was also presented. In terms of the empirical analyses, Experiments 1 and 2 examined the near miss effect as measured by response allocation to concurrently available simulated slot machines in non-pathological gamblers. The results of these studies indicated that verbal rule formation, only when it was presented through multiple exemplars, was significant enough to override programmed contingencies as well as near miss outcomes. Experiments 3 and 4 incorporated participants with a history of problem gambling and sought to reduce the verbal rule involved in the near miss effect through varying treatment strategies associated with Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. Experiment 3 demonstrated that one process of ACT was not sufficient in suppressing this behavior however, Experiment 4 showed that a brief ACT intervention incorporating all of its core processes was successful in treating the near miss effect. Implications of these findings are discussed in terms of a functional approach to the treatment of problem gambling and future extensions of this research are offered.

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