Director - Research Stream

Dr. Michael Dixon.Dr. Dixon is the director of the Research Stream of the Gambling Research Lab. He is a Professor of Psychology, and past Chair of Psychology at the University of Waterloo.  He has conducted research in diverse domains. He is internationally recognized for his research on how semantic information (what a person knows about the world) can influence the manner in which one perceives and recognizes objects in our world. He is one of the foremost authorities on synaesthesia (an anomalous type of perception) and has conducted award-winning research on how brain damage (stroke, Alzheimer’s disease) can influence visual identification. He also has expertise in the effects of alcohol on visual information and cognitive processing.

Dr. Dixon’s gambling research is aimed at identifying those elements of the gambling experience that lead to measurable changes in behaviour–changes which may, potentially, lead to problem gambling.  His most important gambling research to date concerns “Losses Disguised As Wins” (LDWs) in multiline slot machines.  These are outcomes where the slot machine celebrates outcomes where the player gains back less than the total spin wager. Dixon and colleagues showed that the reinforcing sights and sounds that accompany LDWs trigger an arousal response that is similar to the arousal responses triggered by actual wins.  He was awarded the best-oral presentation award from the Alberta Gaming Institute in 2011 for his research on near-misses.

Awards and Scholarships

  • Best Oral Presentation (peer reviewed) at the Annual Conference of the Alberta Gaming Research Institute (April 2011)
  • Outstanding Performance Award (University of Waterloo) 2005, 2008, 2012
  • Premier's Research Excellence Award (2001-2006)
  • Chercheur Boursier Fonds de la Recherche en Santé du Québec (1997-2001) (Young Investigator Salary Support Award (declined))
  • Nelson Butters Award (1995) (best postdoctoral submission at the International Neuropsychological Society).
  • Alzheimer Society of Canada Postdoctoral Fellowship (1993-1995)
  • Finalist for the Academy of Great Montrealer's Prix D'excellence (1990/91) (Runner up for the best doctoral thesis among Montréal's four universities)
Affiliation: 
University of Waterloo