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Tuesday, May 11, 2004
From an article in the New York Times magazine this Sunday:

The makers of slot machines may rely on the lure of life-changing jackpots to attract customers, but the machines' ability to hook so deeply into a player's cerebral cortex derives from one of the more powerful human feedback mechanisms, a phenomenon behavioral scientists call infrequent random reinforcement, or ''intermittent reward.'' Children whose parents consistently shower them with love and attention tend to take that devotion for granted. Those who know they'll never be rewarded by their parents stop trying after a while. But those who are rewarded only intermittently -- in the fashion of a slot machine -- will often pursue positive outcomes with a persistent tenacity. ''That hard-wiring that nature gave us didn't anticipate electronic gaming devices,'' says Howard Shaffer, director of the division on addictions at Harvard Medical School and perhaps the country's foremost authority on gambling disorders.

Because love is the ultimate gambling disorder and we're all raised by emotional slot-machines. Some simply dribble more cherries than others.