Dr Steve Sharman

Dr Steve Sharman is a Research Fellow at the National Addiction Centre, King’s College London. His primary research focuses on using virtual reality to better understand in-game influences on gambling behaviour, the social and economic impacts of gambling related harm, and the importance of environment in the development and maintenance of gambling disorder. He is also interested in the early identification of gambling disorder, and the relationship between gambling and suicide. Steve completed his undergraduate degree in Psychology at University of East London, followed by a master’s degree at University College London in Cognitive Neuroscience. He won a scholarship to complete his PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, investigating cognition and decision-making in pathological and regular gamblers. He worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at the University of Lincoln, before being awarded an SSA Academic Fellowship and moving back to UEL to start his work using virtual reality. He then moved to King’s College London, where he has been successful in securing funding from a King’s Prize Fellowship, and then a UKRI Future Leader’s Fellowship. He is developing the Behavioural Addictions research group at KCL, and is a member of the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling, the Executive Committee for the Academic Forum for the Study of Gambling, and is co-chair of the Current Advances in Gambling Research Conference committee.

Experimental work in Virtual Reality: Methodological considerations

Much of the previous experimental work in the field of gambling research has utilised either traditional laboratory-based paradigms, or naturalistic studies. Whilst effective to an extent, both approaches have limitations. Using Virtual Reality enables researchers to combine the benefits of laboratory settings with the advantages of naturalistic environments whilst removing many of the limitations associated with these methodologies. My current work seeks to use virtual reality to better understand how within-game constructs such as near-misses, losses disguised as wins, maximum stake size and speed of play influence gambling behaviour. However, there is considerable methodological variability in the existing literature relating to uses of virtual reality. Consequently, our first task is to assess and validate different virtual environments, which include virtual casinos built in Unity, and 360 camera footage of real-world gambling environments in comparison to a more traditional experimental psychology gambling task. For this presentation, I will demonstrate previous experimental methodologies used in gambling research, compare them to the virtual worlds to be used in our future work, and discuss some other methodological considerations. This work is funded exclusively by the Society for the Study of Addiction.
Click here for the presentation slides.

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