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A Level students will learn about the psychology behind gambling addiction as part of a new course drawn up by exam board OCR.

In a move designed to link exams more closely with current affairs issues, OCR has introduced a core study into the psychological appeal of gambling and how to break free from addiction.

The study is based around a report by Professor Mark Griffiths, professor of gambling studies at Nottingham Trent University, who has an international reputation for research into gambling and gaming addictions and published his paper on ‘The role of cognitive bias and skill in fruit machine gambling’ in 1994.

It forms part of a new draft Psychology A Level specification which has been submitted to the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) for approval and will be taught from September 2008.

Diane Cole, psychology subject officer for OCR, said: “Core studies are aimed at being representative of psychological research giving a relevant context in which to engage students and keep them interested and motivated throughout their psychology course.

“One of the changes that we introduced for this new qualification is a new core study which focuses on the specific issue of gambling addiction, cognitive bias and individual differences.

“With plans for the UK’s first super casino being reviewed by the government, the danger of gambling addiction is very topical for students to cover as part of their A Level psychology course.”

There are 15 core studies, which are assessed by a two hour exam and count towards half of the AS Level grade and a quarter of the full A Level.

The specification also includes conducting four investigations and completing two applied psychology options, as well as studying a range of perspectives, issues, methods and debates.

Prof Griffiths’ study looks into several aspects of gambling including verbalisations, or ‘thinking aloud’, highlighting the use of irrational statements made by regular gamblers. Examples of such comments are:

• Personification of the fruit machine, e.g. “The machine likes me”
• Explaining away losses, e.g. “I lost there because I wasn’t concentrating”
• Talking to the fruit machine, e.g. “Come on, aren’t you going to pay out for me?”

His report concludes with potential methods of treatment to help moderate or eliminate the motivation to gamble.

Prof Griffiths said: “I am delighted that the study of gambling and gambling addiction has found its way onto the core A Level Psychology syllabus and highlights the fact that today’s students need to learn about the application of psychology in real world situations.

“Against a backdrop of gambling liberalisation and deregulation, gambling addiction looks set to increase and educating students about gambling behaviour will be of real interest.”

It is estimated that approximately 33 million adults – or two thirds of adults in Britain – take part in some kind of gambling activity, with more than half the adult population gambling on a weekly basis.*

Malcolm Bruce, Director of the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (RIGT), said: "Most people who gamble do so responsibly. For some, however, gambling can become an addictive behaviour with devastating consequences for themselves, their families and their friends. We need to know more about how and why gambling affects people in different ways. At the same time we need to educate people about the potential risks involved in gambling.

“For both of these reasons, RIGT is very pleased to see the study of gambling and gambling addiction included as part of the A Level psychology syllabus."

More than 26,000 students sat OCR exams for A or AS Level Psychology this summer at 400 schools and colleges across the UK.


Notes to Editors:

* Stats taken from report by The Gambling Commission published in 2006

OCR (Oxford Cambridge and RSA) is a leading UK awarding body, providing a wide range of qualifications to meet the needs of learners of all ages and abilities. OCR qualifications include AS/A Levels, GCSEs, OCR Nationals, Key Skills, Entry Level qualifications, NVQs and vocational qualifications in areas such as IT, business, languages, teaching/training, administration and secretarial skills.

Each year more than three million students gain OCR qualifications, which are offered by 13,000 centres including schools, sixth form colleges, FE colleges, training providers, voluntary organisations, local authorities, and businesses ranging from SMEs to multi-national organisations.

OCR is part of the Cambridge Assessment Group.

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