The purpose of this study was to examine whether or not a subject betting in the presence of a high betting lucky confederate would be more likely to bet higher, as well as go along with that confederate on the last betting trial. The participants in the study were all female Mount Holyoke College who were placed into one of four conditions- lucky-high, lucky-low, 50/50-high, or 50/50-low. After betting on the races, they filled out a questionnaire to measure their confidence in their betting choices, and the confederate’s influence upon them. There was a significant difference between the number of tickets that the subject bet while in the presence of a high-lucky confederate and the number of tickets bet while in the presence of a low-lucky subject.There was no significant difference between the number of subjects who bet along with the lucky-high confederate on the last betting trial, and number who bet along with the 50/50 low confederate.


Gambling has long been an activity enjoyed by people around the world. There is speculation that Mayan athletes would bet their lives on the outcome of sporting events. Losing the game could well have meant losing your life! What prompts people to take these extreme risks? While extreme sports that involve risking one’s own life are increasing in popularity in modern society, the average person does not engage in such activities. Risk taking is a daily occurrence, but it is more common for people to take minor risks, such as buying a lottery ticket or going on a blind date, than to engage in extreme risk behavior that could cost a person's life. But what would cause someone to engage in a major risk, potentially losing his or her own life? Are people intrinsically motivated to take risks or does the addition of a reward influence their actions and increase their likelihood to take a major risk? Would someone be more willing to go skydiving or bungee-jumping if they stood to gain a monetary reward? How much impact do friends or peers play in individuals' willingness to take risks? Reward may be the influencing factor in human risk taking behavior, but peers may also play a role in influencing others to behave dangerously.

Previous Research

Purpose of our study

The purpose of our study was to look at how peer pressure could influence an individual in a risk- taking situation.


We hypothesized that a subject placed with a lucky confederate in a high betting situation would most likely follow the confederate's betting pattern on the final race.


Chi-Square to assess whether participants were more likely to select same horse as confederate in lucky condition than in 50/50 condition.

Results not significant, X2 (2,N=53)=.81, p>.05

ANOVA used to determine whether partipants were more likely to be influenced by a lucky confederate than a 50/50 confederate on final betting trial.

Self-reported influence:

Lucky condition (M=2.54) 50/50 condition (M=1.72) Significant results, F(1,49)=4.04, MSE=8.54, p=.05

ANOVA used to determine whether participants in lucky condition were more likely to have greater self confidence on horse selection in final betting trial than participants in 50/50 condition.

Self-reported confidence:

Lucky condition (M=3.04) 50/50 condition (M=2.80) Results not significant, F(1,49)=.43, MSE=.73, p>.05

Chi-Square to assess whether participants in lucky high condition were more likely to bet same amount as confederate on final betting trial than participants in lucky low condition.

Results not significant, X2 (2,N=26)=.09, p>.05


Our hypothesis was not fully supported. There was a significant difference between the lucky condition and the 50/50 condition on self-reported influence levels. This may indicate the presence of peer influence; however, participants’ reports do not reflect their actions. Participants did not always select the same horse as the confederate on the final betting trial. This inconsistency may be due to other factors. For example, participants may have been more influenced by horse descriptions than by the confederate horse selection, but still felt influenced by the presence of the confederate. Our Likert scale did not require participants to compare level of influence by confederate and level of influence by horse descriptions. Therefore, in spite of the apparent inconsistency with participant behavior, we must accept the significance of self-reported influence level.

There were a few problems with our study. First, hypothesis guessing may have been present, and social desirability bias may have occurred, each affecting betting selections. Second, inconsistent lab settings (Blanchard Center, Reese Building, Torrey Hall), with five experimenters may have resulted in varying participant behavior and response. Similarly, last-minute changes in test setting required adjustment on the parts of both the experimenter and the participant, influencing the administration of the experiment and its results.

Possible alterations to our experiment may include:

Based on the results of our study, we conclude that the actions of Mount Holyoke women are not easily influenced by others. For further research on peer influence and risk behaviors such as gambling, experimenters may choose to study particpants from other college campuses. How might the actions of Smith students differ from those of Mount Holyoke students? How would these results compare with students who attend a coed college? Researchers may also study the effects of peer influence in other age groups. If a researcher was to find peer influence to be the source of a particular negative behavior in adolescents, we may then devise methods to combat the behavior. Improving the quality of life is dependent on the understanding of human nature, the goal of every social psychologist.


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