Luck, come here! Automatic approach tendencies toward gambling cues in moderate-to-high risk gamblers (2017)

Addiction. 2017 Oct 22. doi: 10.1111/add.14071.

Boffo M1, Smits R1, Salmon JP2, Cowie ME2, de Jong DTHA1, Salemink E1, Collins P2, Stewart SH2,3,4, Wiers RW1.



Similar to substance addictions, reward-related cognitive motivational processes, such as selective attention and positive memory biases, have been found in disordered gambling. Despite findings that individuals with substance use problems are biased to approach substance-related cues automatically, no study has yet focused on automatic approach tendencies for motivationally salient gambling cues in problem gamblers. We tested if moderate-to-high-risk gamblers show a gambling approach bias and whether this bias was prospectively related to gambling behaviour and problems.


Cross-sectional assessment study evaluating the concurrent and longitudinal correlates of gambling approach bias in moderate-to-high-risk gamblers compared with non-problem gamblers.


Online study across the Netherlands.


Twenty-six non-treatment-seeking moderate-to-high risk gamblers and 26 non-problem gamblers community-recruited via the Internet.


Two online assessment sessions six months apart, including self-report measures of gambling problems and behaviour (frequency, duration, and expenditure) and the gambling Approach Avoidance Task, with stimuli tailored to individual gambling habits.


Relative to non-problem gamblers, moderate-to-high-risk gamblers revealed a stronger approach bias towards gambling-related stimuli than neutral stimuli (p = .03). Gambling approach bias was positively correlated with past-month gambling expenditure at baseline (p = .03) and with monthly frequency of gambling at follow-up (p = .02). In multiple hierarchical regressions, baseline gambling approach bias positively predicted monthly frequency (p = .03) and total duration of gambling episodes (p = .01) six months later, but not gambling problems or expenditure.


In The Netherlands, relative to non-problem gamblers, moderate-to-high-risk gamblers appear to have a stronger tendency to approach rather than to avoid gambling-related pictures compared with neutral ones. This gambling approach bias is concurrently associated with past-month gambling expenditure and duration of gambling and has been found to predict persistence in gambling behaviour over time.

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KEYWORDS: action tendency; approach bias; approach-avoidance task; dual-process model; gambling behaviour; gambling problems

PMID: 29055971

DOI: 10.1111/add.14071