The Science of Slots: Mental Triggers

Chloe Wilson - EditorChloe Wilson - 10 September 2019 in Features

The Science of Slots: Mental Triggers

Slot games are so popular because they are based completely on luck and do not require players to adopt any complicated or advanced strategies. However, players can be smart and gain an advantage over other slot players by using a measured and common-sense approach.

Some of the tips that they can adopt include properly managing their bankroll, avoiding emotional rollercoasters and choosing slots with a high RTP (return to player). If you follow these tips, you can have a great time and cashout as well by playing real money pokies.

Slots: The Mindset You Need To Have

When you understand the psychology behind slot games, it becomes easier to play and be in control at all times. Casino operators take advantage of a player’s mindset to get them to keep playing more. A psychologist called Skinner back in 1960s carried out an experiment where pigeons could get access to food by pressing a lever located next to them. The food did not come out with every press but on a random basis which caused the pigeons to keep pressing the lever more frequently.

This same principle is applied to slot games. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi demonstrated this further through his principle called ‘flow’. He referred to flow as a mindset which is determined when things go fast or slow down during a specific activity.

Trigger Features

The human brain tends to repeat activities that bring them pleasure and avoid activities that bring them pain in general. However, gambling operators have used reverse psychology to get slot players to keep coming back for more. The more a player loses at a slot game, the more a player wants to keep playing to see if they can win it all back and then some!

Natasha Dow Schüll, a cultural anthropologist has come out with a list of triggers that keep slot players glued to the game. We take a look at some of these triggers:


Slot game developers are always looking at innovative ways to make their games better. They rely on advanced technology to make the screen as easy on the eye as possible, so players don’t get fatigued easily. They currently use an inclination angle that does not go past 38’.

Seating And Location

Slot machines tend to occupy a major portion of a casino floor and they are placed in such a way that it provides easy access to players. The best games are prominently displayed and the seats are extremely comfortable so players don’t get tired spending hours sitting and playing.

Multiple Buttons And The Special Lever

Multiple buttons make players feel important as they get to press them and see what happens. The lever lets players think they are in control of their gaming experience as they can pull it and get going!


Slot machines display results extremely fast which helps speed up the action. Choliz stated that the faster the results are shown, the faster the player wants to go again.


The majority of sounds take the C note which is pleasant to the ear and is not disturbing. When a player wins, the sounds are bigger to celebrate their win and bring attention to the casino floor.

A University of Waterloo study showed that a mere visual experience diminished the slot experience but when combined with audio completely enhanced the gaming experience.


Players have to purchase special coins from the casino to play these slot games. When they lose, they are triggered into thinking that they lost their coins and don’t really end up calculating how much real money they lost immediately.

Penny Slots

Since the spins for many slots are at bare minimum, players from all financial backgrounds can give it a spin. However, the catch here is to realize that even if you are losing small amounts, over time it can accumulate into a big amount.

Multiple Paylines

Slot games come with multiple paylines, some of which have more than 100 paylines as players can win in multiple directions. A player can win one line and lose but since he won one line, they are tricked into thinking that the next time they can do better.

Partial wins is one of the biggest challenges as players can win a little and be tricked with the flashing lights and fancy music that they are running a lucky streak. Reports show that slot players can easily lose track of their betting, losses and wins. They usually think they won more and lost less when it is often the opposite.

Martin Paulus who is a psychiatrist says new gamblers are often taken by such triggers while experienced gamblers are easier to fool. Paulus warns players to not get emotional and try to recover their losses. Set a budget and then stick to it, to ensure you do not go overboard.

Special Features

Most slots throw in special features that come in the form of free spins, bonus rounds and progressive jackpots. While all this makes the game more interesting, players who get caught up with these special features find it difficult to know when to stop.

The Concept Of Luck

Since slots are based on the concept of luck, casino operators have done a good job over the years getting players to think it is their personal luck on any given day that will determine their results. University of Milano-Bicocca has shown that such a mindset can often foster gambling addiction.

Players who think they can figure out the RNG are more suspect to losses as they are hooked. It is best to understand that you cannot determine the result no matter how many times you decide to give it a spin.

Common Myths

Some of these myths include playing a progressive jackpot when the pot is at a high stage or playing loose machines to get better odds of winning. Avoid such myths and remember at all stages, slot games are based completely on luck.


Set limits on your bankroll and how much time you intend to spend playing the slot machines before you enter a casino. Stick to these numbers and you will be able to enjoy a great slot experience and maybe come out on the other side with a nice payout!

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