COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

[Sensation seeking in a French population of horse betting gamblers: comparison between pathological and regular]

C Bonnaire, I Varescon, C Bungener
L'Encéphale 2007, 33 (5): 798-804
18357851

AIM: A theoretical position on the role of arousal in gambling comes in the form of Zuckerman's theory of sensation seeking. Zuckerman originally suggested a relationship between sensation seeking and gambling in which individuals entertain the risk of monetary loss for the positive reinforcement produced by states of high arousal during the periods of uncertainty, as well as the positive arousal produced by winning. However, this hypothesis has received inconsistent support. Results of the literature support the view that there is a difference between gambling form selection and use, suggesting that gambling cannot be viewed as an homogeneous activity. The aim of this study was to examine the personality trait sensation seeking in a French population of gamblers who bet on horses at the racetrack. Our results will discuss the disparities of the literature between pathological gambling and sensation seeking.

HYPOTHESES: Pathological gamblers who go to the racetrack are higher sensation seekers than regular gamblers. Gamblers betting on many different forms scored higher on sensation seeking.

METHOD: Two groups of gamblers were formed and recruited in five different hippodromes. One group of regular gamblers (n=72), from which pathological gamblers were extracted (n=42). The South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) and the DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling were used to assess the intensity of the gambling behavior, and sensation seeking was measured by Zuckerman's sensation seeking scale.

RESULTS: The results showed that pathological gamblers obtained significantly higher scores of sensation seeking than regular gamblers. These results were significant for the global score of sensation seeking as well as for the factors of disinhibition, and boredom susceptibility. No correlation was found between the sensation-seeking scale total score and the number of regular games played.

DISCUSSION: The sensation-seeking personality trait permits the discrimination of pathological from regular gamblers who go to the racetrack. In the literature, data came from gamblers who practice off-course betting. Nevertheless, pathological gamblers who go to the racetrack seemed to differ from those who practice off-course betting in terms of sensation seeking. The former are high sensation seekers whereas the latter are low sensation seekers. Racetrack gamblers are likely to be more involved in staking plans than off-course gamblers. One way of conceiving the distribution of sensation seekers within gambling forms might be to combine the relationships depicted with the dichotomy made between skills and luck games, or with the serious-recreational, casino-non-casino distinctions. There is a need to identify clinically distinct subgroups of gamblers who exhibit common, cardinal symptoms but, at the same time, who differ significantly with respect to key variables that are of etiological relevance and can be used in treatment and prognosis. To establish different subtypes, it is important to take into account the venue and the type of games as well as the sensation-seeking scores and the motivation of the gambler. These subtypes of gamblers are discussed.

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