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Clickbait, Gambling, Charity and Neurotransmitters



I spotted a very interesting local new story on the internet the other day and I instantly clicked the link, intrigued to learn that anything from my village had managed to sweep the UK.


‘Dorchester on Thames brilliant funeral plan sweeps the UK’


What a funeral plan it must be! Realising I had become a willing participant in the desperate world of clickbait, in for the penny as they say, I thought I would explore more of these ‘news articles’


‘This 121 year old photo has sparked conspiracy theories about Greta Thurnberg’


‘UK Casinos don’t like this, but they cannot stop you’


‘If you are over 24, then this is the most exciting article you will read this year!’


Well, I am over 24! (Just) So I clicked the link…


It turned out the most exciting article that I will read this year, is actually about 30 free spins at 888 Casino! I wondered why you had to be over 24 to be excited by this news. Do the 23-year-olds reading this article wonder what all the fuss is about?


Do you get increasingly excited about these 30 free spins as you get older, to the extent that I should avoid telling elderly relatives about it, in case it brings on a frenzy of uncontrollable online gambling? I became convinced that this would be my passport to a millionaire lifestyle.


I decided that the next stage to securing this windfall, would be to click the other link-


‘UK Casinos don’t like this, but they cannot stop you’


Walking past and not going in maybe?


I clicked the link and it turns out that once again, I can have another 30 free spins with the Casino. Jackpot!


These free spins are very exciting given the predictable and repetitive nature of my life. In many experiments on the brain, participants consistently experienced higher levels of dopamine as a neural response to inconsistent and unexpected events. (Over and above expected ones)


This was true in this example of my news article clickbait clicking. I received more pleasure from the surprise of the first lot of 30 spins, than the (now) predictable winning of the second 30.


In other words, it is the randomly delivered windfall that gives the heightened arousal, rather than constant success. I wonder if the gambling industry knows this…hmmmm.


The UK gambling industry’s yield in 2021 was £14 billion in the UK, so it seems that this is very lucrative psychology. There are 2 million problem gamblers in this country, 55000 of them are children. Gambling adverts seem to be everywhere.


There is a term called ‘pain threshold’ used in the industry, which relates to the maximum that a casino can take from you before it deters you from returning. They realised that it is important that things don’t get so bad for you that you don’t come back. I wonder how far this threshold can be stretched with bank loans, re mortgages and other destructive financial decision making on the part of the customer.


By way of contrast with the figure spent on gambling, £11 billion was donated to charity in the UK in 2018. There has also been a 25% drop in charity donations in the past ten years.


Charity stimulates a hormone called Oxytocin. Sadly it has a much shorter half-life than dopamine, so doesn’t stay long in our system.


As we spend increasingly more on gambling and less on charitable donations. Do we blame those pesky neurotransmitters?

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