Project Participants

The Behavioral Identification and Preferences of Pathological Gamblers (Pathological Gamblers)


The importance of gambling, for individuals and society, is apparent in the tragic stories of those that have been led to financial stress and bankruptcy. When one reviews the scientific literature on gambling, however, there is controversy surrounding the identification and characterization of gamblers. In part this is a byproduct of the topic spanning several disciplines. Economists see most behavior as resulting from a deliberate choice, even when that might be a bad choice or an ill-informed choice. Medical specialists and epidemiologists see behavior in terms of disease models. And of course there is a role for both perspectives: the view that certain aspects of gambling behavior is driven by neurological processes, but that these can be exacerbated by poor choices. Our approach is agnostic on this issue, but informed by the debate. We seek to use modern tools of experimental and behavioral economics to help identify what we will call “pathological gamblers,” and then to see if the choice environment of the experimental laboratory, which entail real economic consequences of a small scale, can be used to modify field behavior over time.Our approach has three components: (i) a descriptive identification of gamblers in the wider population, (ii) an analytical characterization of those we identify as gamblers, and (iii) an exciting exploration of the possibility that controlled lab experiments with real economic consequences can be used to mitigate the extent of gambling over time.


Public (National)


Danmarks frie forskningsfond

Collaborative partners:

University of Cape Town, Georgia State University, Durham University



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