Risky decision making and cognitive flexibility among online sports bettors in Nigeria

Florian Lange, Ethelbert Agu, Tochukwu Nweze
Published Online:
03 Feb 2020

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Online sports betting is a popular recreational activity in Nigeria. Like other forms of gambling, risk of pathological progression exists for gamblers who continue betting despite severe financial and psychosocial consequences. In the present study, we examined whether this population of gamblers shows deficits in decision making and cognitive flexibility that have been documented in Western gambling populations. Thirty‐six online sports bettors and 42 non‐gambling participants completed a version of the Iowa gambling task (IGT) and an established set‐shifting task for the assessment of cognitive flexibility. The two groups did not differ significantly in the selection of disadvantageous decks on the IGT. In contrast, sports bettors committed significantly more errors on the set‐shifting task than non‐gambling control participants. As this performance deficit was not specific to trials requiring a set shift, it most likely resulted from gambling‐related changes in general cognitive or motivational abilities that are required to successfully complete challenging mental tasks. While our results illustrate that findings from Western populations cannot automatically be generalised to other contexts, it should be noted that we focused on only one particular type of gambling and included mostly participants with mild gambling‐related problems.

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