Social exclusion tied to risky gambling

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People who feel socially isolated are more likely to take risks with their money, according to a new study.

In a series of experiments, researchers found that the more often people felt excluded, the more likely they were to select longer odds for potentially bigger lottery wins, bet on horse races, gamble in casinos and take greater risks with their finances.

People without social support appear to place more value on the power of money to obtain what they want socially, according to the authors of the study, which was presented at the American Psychological Society's annual meeting in Honolulu.

The researchers said their findings could help socially vulnerable people make better money decisions.

"Some marketers with questionable ethics may target demographic groups likely to suffer from social exclusion, such as the elderly, divorcees and widows or widowers," Rod Duclos, an assistant professor of marketing at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, said in an APA news release.

"Others may be tempted to isolate, physically or psychologically, prospective clients during financial negotiations since doing so may result in larger commissions," he said. "By illustrating how common experiences such as feeling rejected or accepted can affect consumers' financial decisions, our research can help people make more informed decisions."

Researching the issues

In two experiments, participants who were made to feel socially isolated were more likely to gamble and to take greater risks when gambling than those who felt socially included.

The researchers also interviewed random people in malls and found that those who felt socially isolated were more likely to choose a lottery that offered a 20 percent chance to win $800 and an 80% chance to win nothing, rather than a lottery that offered an 80 percent chance to win $200 and a 20% chance to win nothing. People who felt socially isolated also were more likely to bet on horse racing, gamble in casinos, and make riskier investments.

An article based on the new findings has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Consumer Research.

More information

The US National Institutes of Health discusses problem gambling.

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