Dr. N. Will Shead
Office: Evaristus 425
Office Phone: 902-457-6159
My primary area of research is gambling. I am interested in the processes involved in the development and maintenance of general gambling behaviour as well as gambling problems. With the gambling industry continuing to grow on a global scale, gambling and the indisputable concerns that arise from gambling problems are an area of scientific inquiry with endless possibilities. My past research has examined a range of topics including cognitive mechanisms underlying problem gambling, emotional regulation and motives related to gambling, Internet gambling, sports wagering, and poker playing. Ultimately, I hope this research will lead to the development of new and improved prevention and treatment programs for individuals experiencing gambling problems.
One of my ongoing areas of study has been the examination of behavioural discounting and its relation to risk-taking and gambling. Delay discounting refers to the tendency for delayed outcomes to be considered worth less compared to the value of immediate outcomes; probability discounting describes the tendency for uncertain outcomes to be valued less than certain outcomes. These individual tendencies can be measured using a standard research paradigm and have been shown to be associated with significant psychosocial variables. For example, numerous studies have shown that higher rates of delay discounting are related to greater impulsivity. Studies on problem gamblers have shown that problem gamblers have higher rates of delay discounting compared to controls suggesting that problem gamblers tend to prefer smaller, more immediate rewards over larger, delayed rewards. My current program of research is aimed at further clarifying how tendencies towards discounting of delayed and probabilistic outcomes relate to gambling behaviour.
Recently, I have been involved in research that aims to build on our current understanding of gambling behaviour from a social psychological theoretical framework. In a set of studies supported by the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre (Callan, Shead, & Olson, 2008-2009), we demonstrated that threatening personal deservingness by leading them to believe they have less discretionary income compared to similar peers leads to increased preference for immediate rewards which, in turn, leads to increased gambling behaviour. We believe these findings are important because they will contribute to a better understanding of the psychological processes related to the vulnerabilities that lead some individuals towards gambling-related problems.
I am currently conducting research on gambling activities that contain an element of skill, specifically poker. My interest in poker was sparked by the rapid rise in poker’s popularity since the early 2000s, particularly among adolescents and university students. The continued expansion of the online gambling industry suggests a strong need to investigate poker and online gambling in future studies.
My research has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research. I have been awarded research grants from the Alberta Gaming Research Institute and the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre.