Reports of wins and risk taking: An investigation of the mediating effect of the illusion of control


Two experiments examined the relationships between the knowledge that another person has won in a gamble, the illusion of control and risk taking. Participants played a computer-simulated French roulette game individually. Before playing, some participants learnt that another person won a large amount of money. Results from a first experiment (n = 24) validated a causal model where the knowledge of another person’s win increased the illusion of control, measured with betting times, expectancy and self-reports on scales, which in turn encourages risk taking. In the second experiment (n = 36), some participants were told the previous player acknowledged the win to be fortuitous. The suppression of the belief that the previous winner had himself exerted control over the outcome resulted in lower rates of risk-taking behaviors. This suggests that it was not the knowledge of another person’s win in itself that increased risk taking, but rather, the belief that the other person had some control over the gamble’s outcome. Theoretical implications for the study of social mechanisms involved in gambling behavior are discussed.

In Journal of Gambling Studies, 27, 271–285