Well, many believe that the joyfully delicious dopamine that floods our brain when we almost succeed in something, is to give us the motivation and excitement to try it again and work towards its perfection. From an evolutionary point of view this makes sense. Think about hunting or creating a fire. These two things take time and practice to perfect and if we didn’t feel the joy of those near misses, we may have struggled with the motivation to remain engaged….I don’t know about you but discovering bacon was definitely worth the perseverance.
Now whilst this physiological response is vital to our development, it’s also presents a problem.
That rush of dopamine we experience when we hit the basketball rim from centre court is the same rush of dopamine produced when we have a near miss on a gambling table or slot machine. When the spinning wheel gives us 2 cherries, or the white ball lands on 15 and our chips are resting on number 14 we experience that same joy and in turn are motivated to keep trying for the win (by throwing in more money). What makes this particularly terrifying is when you learn that casinos exploit this human response by designing their machines to generate these near misses far more often.
There is fantastic research you delve into on the science behind the ‘near miss’.
Here is a paper by Henry Chase and Luke Clark: Gambling Severity Predicts Midbrain Response to Near-Miss Outcomes – bit.ly/1IGpSZ9