You pull the lever on the slot machine and get two cherries and a lemon. Or you throw down dice and get a six, then an eight, when you were aiming for a seven. So close! Play again!
We get a rush from playing games that we feel like we've almost won, but have lost by a small margin. For people who gamble, the allure of the "near miss" can keep the dice rolling, the slots turning, and the money slipping away.
A new study in the Journal of Neuroscience looks deeper into the mind of the gambler. Psychology researchers Henry Chase and Luke Clark looked at 20 regular gamblers. Participants varied from recreational gamblers to "pathological gamblers," meaning their habits may interfere with everyday life.