Addiction to Gambling: A Matter of Will?


  • Thomas Amadieu University of Paris-Sorbonne


Pathological gambling has been sparsely studied from a sociological point of view, the phenomenon having usually been apprehended by psychologists and other specialists of mental disorders. The present study aims at testing the empirical validity of social theories on addiction, in particular the notions of weakness of will and time-discounting. Is the pathological gambler rational or irrational? This work hypothesizes that in a context of strong habit and of depreciation of themselves and their future gamblers may have good reasons to keep playing. Excessive players evolve in a social context that favors a strong attachment to the activity, despite their frequent desire to stop. Empirical evidences rely on semi-structured interviews with gamblers and ethnographic observations in Parisian horse-race betting shops (France) as well as on reports of interviews of pathological gamblers consulting at an addiction treatment centre. Results show that rational mechanisms partly explain excessive gambling behavior.