Institutional members access full text with Ovid®

Share this article on:

The Impact of Alexithymia on Pathological Gamblers’ Decision Making: A Preliminary Study of Gamblers Recruited in “Sportsbook” Casinos

Aïte, Ania PhD*,†; Barrault, Servane PhD; Cassotti, Mathieu PhD*,†; Borst, Grégoire PhD*,†; Bonnaire, Céline PhD; Houdé, Olivier PhD*,†,§; Varescon, Isabelle PhD; Moutier, Sylvain PhD

Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology: June 2014 - Volume 27 - Issue 2 - p 59–67
doi: 10.1097/WNN.0000000000000027
Original Studies

Objective: We investigated whether alexithymia is at the root of the decision-making deficit classically reported in pathological gamblers.

Background: Alexithymia has been shown to be a recurrent personality trait of pathological gamblers and to impair the decision-making abilities of nonpathological gamblers, but no previous studies have investigated whether alexithymia significantly affects pathological gamblers’ decision making. Although investigations of pathological gamblers typically have studied those seeking treatment, most pathological gamblers do not seek treatment. Thus, to study people representative of the general population of pathological gamblers, we conducted our study in “sportsbook” casinos with a small sample of gamblers who were not seeking treatment.

Methods: We recruited gamblers in sportsbooks and classified them based on their scores on the South Oaks Gambling Screen and the Toronto Alexithymia Scale: 3 groups of pathological gamblers (6 alexithymic, 8 possibly alexithymic, and 6 nonalexithymic) and 8 healthy controls. All of the participants completed an adaptation of the Iowa Gambling Task.

Results: The alexithymic group chose less advantageously on the task than the other groups. The severity of the deficit in decision-making abilities was related to the severity of alexithymia, even when we controlled for the effects of anxiety and depression.

Conclusions: Our findings provide preliminary evidence that alexithymia might be a critical personality trait underlying pathological gamblers’ decision-making deficits.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.

*National Center for Scientific Research Unit 8240, Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education, Paris Descartes University (IUPDP), Sorbonne Paris Cité

Caen University, France

Laboratory of Psychopathology and Health Processes, Paris Descartes University (IUPDP), Sorbonne Paris Cité, France

§Institut Universitaire de France, Paris, France

Supplemental Digital Content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the printed text and are provided in the HTML and PDF versions of this article on the journal's Website,

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Reprints: Ania Aïte, PhD, Laboratory for the Psychology of Child Development and Education, Université Paris Descartes, Sorbonne, 46 rue Saint Jacques, 75005 Paris, France (e-mail:

Received May 18, 2013

Accepted September 3, 2013

Copyright © 2014 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved