Can positive thinking be a very bad thing?



Research has demonstrated that optimism and “positive illusions” can be used a coping mechanism among those facing adversity. Gamblers are a little studied group who also experience adversity and uncertainty. They often feel considerable levels of frustration, guilt, anger and a sense of feeling cheated after making significant losses. In order to deal with such feelings it is hypothesized that these individuals will search for positive consequences from their behaviour in order to offset this negative affect.


To (1) determine whether after gambling, gamblers compensate and reduce negative affect by identifying positive consequences from experiencing a loss, and (2) identify types of strategies which gamblers employ and consider how these should be classified.


Materials and Methods  

Eighty-seven regular slot machine gamblers were interviewed in a variety of environments housing slot machines. Each participant was asked a series of questions in a semi-structured format, to explore possible styles of positive thinking.



Nine types of ‘positive thinking’ experienced by gamblers were identified. These included Comparative thinking, Prophylactic thinking, Biased frequency thinking, Responsibility avoidance, Chasing Validation, Prioritization, Resourcefulness, Thoughtfulness, and Fear Reduction. Gamblers who were positive thinkers experienced significantly less guilt than non-positive thinkers.



While reduction of negative affect may be perceived as positive in many other contexts, it is argued that it may counteract efforts to promote responsible gambling. Clinical implications and directions for future research are discussed.

Source: “Positive Thinking Among Slot Machine Gamblers: A Case of Maladaptive Coping?” from International Journal of Mental Health and Addiction, Volume 5, Number 1, 39-52

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