General Article Can gambling be useful? You bet

Topic Selected: Gambling
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Incorporate risk and uncertain outcomes into lessons and you’ll be on to a winner, Darren Evans writes.



From furtive games of pitch-and-toss in the playground to friendly bets on a classmate’s sporting prowess, gambling games have always been played by children in school. But can gambling, or gaming, with its associated and usually negative elements of risk-taking and instant gratification, ever be used in a positive and constructive way to motivate learning in the classroom?

It is a question that has prompted groundbreaking research by a team of neuroscientists at the University of Bristol, who set out to investigate the links between games, brains and learning.

‘We wanted to find out why games educated us,’ says Paul Howard-Jones, who led the research. ‘It has a lot to do with the attraction of uncertain reward.’

The key is a chemical called dopamine, which is associated with the brain’s reward system and creates feelings of enjoyment. It can motivate a person to perform certa...

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