If you were wondering whether rats could play blackjack or roulette, well, they can’t. They aren’t people and they can’t do people things. They don’t have people hands and there’s no rat dealers to take their bets, so stop thinking about a rat with a tuxedo on; just look at pictures of Piers Morgan instead. Same thing.
No, to investigate whether bright lights in the big city (you’ve got Stevie Wonder stuck in your head now) cause people to gamble more, a bunch of scientists locked some rats up in their very own makeshift casino. You can imagine a bunch of animal rights activists storming the labs and pulling out rats with red eyes, whisky breath and a rather dishevelled look, as they murmur something about losing the house. Well, unsurprisingly, bright flashy lights and sounds caused the rats to take more risks as they gambled away their pay day loans.
Catharine A. Winstanley and Michael M. Burns from the Dep. of Psychology, which is part of the University of British Columbia, set up their ‘ratsino’ to test the effects of flashy lights and big sounds associated with huge wins. There were four doors, each of which were increasingly unlikely to pay out sugary treats, but if activated, would pay out more.
Essentially, the game was like a slot machine, which has increasing prizes with lower odds of occurring. If the rats opted for a door and it failed to open, they would be shut out of the game for a while. When tasked with this, the rats chose the door with the highest odds, but the lowest prize. Ultimately, they chose the safest door for an almost guaranteed prize.
Well, when bright lights and loud sounds were associated with the door with the least odds, and the rats eventually won, they were driven to play that door more. It was almost as if the fuss that surrounded winning door four drove the rats to play that door even more.
Once the rats had their dopamine receptors blocked, the bright lights didn’t bother rats any more. The rats stopped exhibiting irrational gambling behaviours. The blocker had no effect of rats who gambled without the flashing lights and sounds. What they’re trying to say is that bright lights when associated with a win releases dopamine. Dopamine is good for us. It makes us feel good.
If you’re a human. and not a rat, although we don’t discriminate, then head on over to Lucky Nugget Casino and have a dabble at some proper casino games. We don’t pay out in food, honestly.