Near-Misses and Stop Buttons in Slot Machine Play: An Investigation of How They Affect Players, and May Foster Erroneous Cognitions (2017)

J Gambl Stud. 2017 Jul 12. doi: 10.1007/s10899-017-9699-x.

Dixon MJ1, Larche CJ2, Stange M1, Graydon C1, Fugelsang JA1.


In modern casinos, multiline slot machines are becoming increasingly popular compared to traditional, three-reel slot machines. A paucity of research has examined how the unique presentation of near-misses and the use of a stop button in multiline slot machines impact erroneous cognitions related to the perception of skill and agency during play. Our goal therefore was to determine the prevalence of erroneous cognitions pertaining to near-miss outcomes and the usage of a stop button and then to see whether the stop button affected players’ experiences of winning, losing and near-miss outcomes. We recruited 132 gamblers from a casino in Ontario. They played two versions of a slot machine simulator: one with a stop button and one without a stop button. We measured player’s arousal [skin conductance responses (SCRs), pressure on the spin-button), and behavioural responses (post-reinforcement pauses (PRPs)] to wins, losses and near-misses during play. We predicted more robust physiological SCRs and longer PRPs to wins in the stop button game. We also predicted that near-misses encountered in the stop button game would trigger greater levels of arousal and frustration in players, as indexed by larger SCRs, and greater force applied to the spin button to initiate the next spin. Erroneous cognitions pertaining to the stop button and near-misses respectively were assessed following play. Results showed that a small but meaningful percentage of players held erroneous cognitions about the stop button (13.6%) and near-misses (16%). Players depressed the spin button harder, and had larger SCRs for all outcomes when using the stop button. Players also paused longer for near-misses in the game involving the stop button. Our findings converge to suggest that the stop button encourages an erroneous perception of skill in some players, and consequentially impacts how such players perceive their outcomes in multiline slot machines.


Cognitive biases; Erroneous cognitions; Frustration; Gambling; Illusion of control; Near-misses; Stop button; Structural game features

PMID: 28702882

DOI: 10.1007/s10899-017-9699-x