A recent study found that habitual gamblers perceive the world differently than the non-gambling population and see “illusory patterns” others do not. The finding suggests that gambling addiction may partly be due to some type of cognitive distortion.

The study, currently published in the Journal of Gambling Studies, put the basic human tendency to restore order to randomness to the test. The researchers compared the matching patterns of 91 habitual gamblers against 70 recreational gambling members of the general population using laboratory tasks that resembled real-world betting. For the experiment, gamblers were asked to use two slot machines: one which had a 67 percent chance of producing a win and one which only had a 33 percent chance of producing a win. The players were told that the probability of the machines “could be learned from experience.”

Results showed that the habitual gamblers were more likely to show a preference for the machine which produced the worst odds, which the co-lead author Wolfgang Gaissmaier explained was because gamblers were prone to accept random series of events as non-random and thus worth betting on.

“Our results suggest that gamblers are more willing to bet impulsively on perceived illusory patterns,” Gaissmaier said in a press release, as reported by Time.

This tendency to see patterns unfortunately added to the likeliness of betting on false trends and inevitably making more losses than wins.

This is not the first study to suggest that cognitive difficulties lie at the root of gambling addiction, however. A 2008 study proposed that the irrational beliefs and attitudes associated with gamblers may be associated with a type of cognitive distortion. The study compared the gambling habits of 1,354 twins and concluded that siblings who had a lifetime of gambling issues also had elevated levels of cognitive difficulties compared to their non-gambling siblings.

Gambling is described as a type of impulse-control disorder and is approached in a similar way to substance addictions. HelpGuide.org explained that those who experience problems controlling their gambling tendencies can enter a 12-step recovery program designed after Alcoholics Anonymous. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is also a popular approach and helps individuals to “rewire” their brains to think in a different way. The goal is to change your thoughts and beliefs about gambling in a way to help you tackle your addiction.

Source: Gaissmaier W, Wilke A, Scheibehenne B, McCanney P, Barrett HC. Betting on Illusory Patterns: Probability Matching in Habitual Gamblers. Journal of Gambling Studies. 2015.