Study Shows Sounds Draw You to Slot Machine Games

Woman Sitting Playing Slot Machine at the Casino
Slot machines feature a number of vibrant sound effects. You may think that these sounds are just part of the entertainment.

However, research shows that sound effects from slot machines are about more than entertainment. In fact, these noises are meant to both draw and keep you playing slots.

Slot machines ringing out with triumphant noises and exciting music aren’t inherently evil. However, the matter becomes more serious if these sounds cause you to play slots longer than you’d like.

Obviously, you don’t want to be convinced to keep spinning the reels beyond what you’re comfortable with. That being said, keep reading to find out more about the study and how you can keep from falling victim to enticing sound effects.

What Research Reveals About Slot Machine Sounds

Mike Dixon, a psychology professor at the University of Waterloo, has been involved in several prominent slot studies over the years. His research on these games’ sounds is one of his best works.

Dixon’s study reveals that certain slots noises can trick your brain into thinking you’ve won more money than you really have.

For example, you might bet $1 and only earn back $0.30. However, celebratory noises that ring out from the machine may convince you that you’re truly a winner.

Specifics of the Study

Dixon’s research featured 96 participants. Each gambler played two sessions on a slots simulator.

The professor and his team measured the players’ physiological responses to the slot machines’ outcomes. Wins, losses, and losses disguised as wins (LDWs) were all measured with the sounds both turned on and off.

The gamblers’ palms gave away how they were feeling in each situation. Their palms, which were tested for skin conductance, became sweaty when they got excited. Their heartbeats also became faster during periods of slots arousal.

Human Skeletal X-Ray, Slot Machine Reels

In the first session, LDWs and wins were reinforced by celebratory noises and animations. In the second, only the animations were left on while the music was turned off.

When the sessions were finished, researchers asked the gamblers which round they had more fun with. The team also inquired about how the players thought they did in terms of wins and losses.

Heart rates were faster and skin conductance tests were greater during the session with sounds. Gamblers also felt like they won more money in the first run.

The reality, though, is that the players severely overestimated how much they won in the initial session. Estimates on wins were 24% in the first round versus 15% in the second session. In reality, the winnings were relatively the same for both rounds.

The study authors concluded that,

“Although sounds may have contributed to players’ enjoyment of the game, sound may also lead to an overestimation of winning.”

They added, “Both of these effects may contribute to gambling problems, such as misbeliefs about the true chances of winning, and persistence that some players experience when playing slot machines.”

Should You Be Bothered by the Addictive Nature of Slots Sounds?

The study doesn’t exactly cast slot machines and their developers in a good light. Developers purposely add sounds that convince players to gamble longer.

As a result, you may feel leery about playing slot machines or even visiting casinos in general. After all, you’ll hear these noises immediately upon walking into a casino and perhaps be drawn to them.

Of course, you don’t have to fall victim to the addictive qualities of these noises. You can avoid this trap simply knowing about Dixon’s study and what slots sounds are designed to do.

Assuming you’re able to play responsibly, then you may even find that the music and sound effects enhance your experience. After all, who doesn’t like hearing a triumphant noise after netting a payout?

The key, though, is to fully realize what happens on each spin. You want to understand whether or not you actually won, not just rely on the noises.

Other Factors That Can Attract You to Slot Machines

Sound is far from the only aspect that makes slot machines addictive. Plenty of other aspects make these games alluring, including the following.

Flashing Lights

You can expect to see flashing lights accompany triumphant sounds during any payout. These lights also reinforce wins, no matter how big or small.

Much like with sound effects, you need to be skeptical of these lights. Just keep in mind that a game will light up regardless of how much you win, even if it’s just $0.30.


The slots world offers a large variety of themes to appeal to many types of players. Fantasy, holidays, sports, and wild animals are some of the most common themes in slot machines.

A typical trend over the last decade involves rolling out slots based on popular movies and TV shows. These well-known themes have become huge hits on casino floors.

A gambler who loves Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, for example, will be attracted to Playtech’s Gladiator online slot. That said, developers know what they’re doing with regard to themes.

Bonuses and VIP Rewards

Black Loyalty Rewards CardThe casino industry has done a great job at convincing players that casino comps are more valuable than they truly are. Some gamblers will actually extend their slot sessions just to upgrade to a better comp.

You should realize, though, that these bonuses and rewards aren’t worth nearly as much as they appear to be.

In fact, most slots VIP rewards are only worth around $0.02 per $1 in theoretical losses.

Considering the chances of you losing 50x the value of comps, you certainly don’t want to overestimate the worth of these rewards.


Most slot machines feature some kind of jackpot. Many of the most popular games offer seven, or even eight figure top prizes.

For example, Microgaming’s Mega Moolah has paid out a number of multimillion-dollar prizes. In 2019, it delivered a record-online slots jackpot worth over $21 million.

This prize is an exception to the norm. However, the fact stands that jackpots worth six, seven, or eight figures draw big crowds.

Psychological Factors

Slots makers don’t just rely on physical aspects like sounds and flashing lights to attract gamblers. They also program games to take advantage of certain psychological factors.

For instance, LDWs convince players that they’re winners even when they lose money overall.

Here’s an example of an LDW:

  • You bet $0.50
  • You spin the reels and win $0.10
  • ($0.50) – ($0.10) = $0.40 net loss
  • Music begins playing and the machine flashes
  • You feel like a winner but you lost $0.40

Slot machines have the ability to put you into a trance based on their speed of play, animations, and other entertaining factors. You may begin mindlessly spinning the reels without realizing how long you’ve been in the casino.

This scenario is what’s referred to as a slots trance. A good way to keep yourself from falling into these trances involves being aware of the current time and how long you’ve been in the casino.

Gambling establishments don’t put clocks on the wall for this very reason. But you can simply refer to your smartphone every so often to check the time.

Friends Who Play Slot Machines

Slot machines may seem like a solo affair. However, they can turn into a social excursion when you’re with a friend.

Playing slots with a friend or two definitely adds to the experience. But it also serves as another draw to these games.

As long as you and your friends play responsibly, then gambling with buddies is a positive aspect. On the other hand, you definitely don’t want to gamble too often with those who go overboard on slot machines.


Dixon’s research proves that slots sound effects can keep you spinning the reels longer. They provide positive reinforcement on all wins, even those that come in LDW form.

If you’re playing on autopilot, you’ll be more likely to fall for these tricks. After all, the sounds are purposely designed to make you feel good about any payout.

The key is to ignore the noise and analyze each spin. Did you actually win money during a round, or did you just win a small payout that doesn’t even equal the spin cost?

The latter is an aspect that you should be fully aware of while playing. Furthermore, you need to know when you’re truly winning money versus losing it.

Awareness will help prevent you from playing too long. That being said, pay attention to each spin and don’t be fooled by the sound effects.