Mike J. Dixon

Head shot of Dr. Mike Dixon

BSc (Trent) MA, PhD (Concordia)

Contact information

Recipient, 2005, 2008, 2012, 2019 Outstanding Performance Award

Research interests

Previously I conducted research on synaesthesia – a condition where ordinary stimuli lead to extraordinary experiences.  Over the last decade my research program has investigated gambling behaviour.  Much of our research has focused on some of the deceptive features of multiline slot machines.  In 2010 we coined the term “losses disguised as wins” to describe slots outcomes where players for example bet 1$ on a spin and win back 20 cents. Despite this outcome being a net loss, the machine plays highly engaging animations and celebratory sounds that are similar in character to the reinforcing sounds played true wins.  Our work on losses disguised as wins has led to policy changes in Australia.   More recently we coined the term “dark flow” to describe the unusual state of absorption that problem players especially experience while playing slots.  This state appears to be sought after by depressed players who use slot machine play as a maladaptive coping mechanism.  The reinforcing sights and sounds of the slot machine captures their attention, preventing their minds from wandering to negative places.

Funding sources.  Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Ontario Problem Gambling Research Centre.  Manitoba Gambling Research Council.

Problem gambling research lab website

Selected publications

  • Dixon, M.J., Gutierrez, J., Stange, M., Larche, C.J., Graydon, C.M., Vintan, S., Kruger, T.B. (2019). Mindfulness problems and depression symptoms in everyday life predict dark flow during slots play: implications for gambling as a form of escape. Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, 33, 81-90.
  • Dixon, M.J., Stange, M., Larche, C., Graydon, C., Fugelsang, J., & Harrigan, K. (2018). Dark flow, depression, and multiline slot machine play. Journal of Gambling Studies, 34(1), 73-84.
  • Dixon, M.J., Graydon, C. Harrigan, K.A., Wojtowicz, L., Siu, V. & Fugelsang, J.A. (2014). The allure of multi-line games in modern slot machines. Addiction, 109, 1920-1928. doi: 10.1007/s10899-014-9446-5.
  • Dixon, M. J., Smilek, D. Cudahy, C. & Merikle, P. M. (2000)  Five plus two equals yellow. Nature, 406, 365.


Mike J. Dixon's CV (PDF)