Dr Steve Sharman
I completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at UEL, graduating top of the class and winning the British Psychological Society award for the University. During this time I became interested in pathological gambling, and began working on a voluntary basis at the National Problem Gambling Clinic. This was followed by a master’s degree at UCL in Cognitive Neuroscience, where my dissertation investigated decision-making differences between gamblers and a control group. I won a scholarship to complete my PhD in Experimental Psychology at the University of Cambridge, under the supervision of Dr Luke Clark, investigating cognition and decision-making in pathological and regular gamblers. Upon completion of my doctorate, I worked for approximately 1 year at NatCen (National Centre for Social Research) before moving to the University of Lincoln to take up a post-doctoral research post, working closely with pathological gamblers from the Gordon Moody Association. I am a member of the National Problem Gambling Research Council, housed at the clinic in London, have acted as a reviewer for numerous journals, supervise final year undergraduate dissertation, and teach on the Psychology undergraduate degree.
Experimental work in Virtual Reality: Methodological considerations
Dr Steve Sharman
Dr Steve Sharman is a Research Fellow at the University of East London, where is an integral part of the drugs and addictive behaviours research group. Steve has authored multiple peer-reviewed journal articles, provided evidence to Government consultations, and is part of the Gambling Research Council, housed at the National Problem Gambling Clinic. His previous research encompasses multiple facets of gambling behaviour, including cognitive distortions, the influence of within-game structural characteristics, working with treatment seeking gambling populations, and examining the relationship between gambling and homelessness. Steve’s current work utilises fully immersive virtual reality to investigate gambling and disordered gambling behaviour.
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.