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Gambling: The "near miss" Effect




Gambling, a pastime enjoyed by many, can unfortunately lead to addiction and financial woes for some. Central to this issue is the concept of "near misses," a psychological phenomenon skillfully employed by gambling firms to keep players engaged. This blog post delves into the impact of near misses on the human psyche and how they are used in the gambling industry.


Understanding Near Misses

A "near miss" in gambling occurs when an outcome is close to a win but ultimately results in a loss. For example, a slot machine showing two out of three required symbols for a jackpot can be considered a near miss. Psychologically, these near misses are critical because they can be as stimulating as actual wins for gamblers.


The Psychology Behind the Thrill

The thrill of nearly winning triggers a rush of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, in the brain. This sensation can be almost as satisfying as winning itself, creating a powerful incentive to continue gambling. Near misses exploit the human tendency to see patterns where none exist, leading gamblers to believe they are "getting closer" to a big win.


The Role of Near Misses in Gambling Addiction

Gambling firms often intentionally design games to maximize the occurrence of near misses. Slot machines, for instance, are programmed to frequently show near-miss outcomes. This technique taps into the gambler's desire for control and the mistaken belief that they can "almost" predict the next win.


The Illusion of Skill and Control

Near misses can create an illusion of skill or control in games that are purely chance-based. Gamblers may believe that they are "learning" the game or getting better at predicting outcomes, which encourages continued play and, in some cases, increased bets.


Increased Engagement and Time Spent Gambling

The excitement and anticipation generated by near misses can lead players to spend more time and money gambling. This prolonged engagement not only increases the likelihood of addiction but also leads to greater financial losses over time.


Addressing the Issue

Recognizing the impact of near misses is crucial in developing responsible gambling practices and interventions. Some steps that can be taken include:

  1. Awareness and Education: Educating gamblers about the psychological tricks used in gambling, including near misses, can help them make more informed decisions.

  2. Regulatory Measures: Governments and regulatory bodies can impose rules on how games are designed to limit the use of near misses as a psychological tool.

  3. Responsible Gambling Resources: Providing resources and support for gambling addiction, including self-exclusion programs and counseling services, is essential.


Near misses play a significant role in the psychology of gambling and can contribute to addictive behaviors. Understanding this phenomenon is key to promoting responsible gambling and protecting vulnerable individuals. By raising awareness and implementing regulatory measures, the negative impact of these psychological tactics can be mitigated.

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