By Adam Andrzejewski for RealClearPolicy

The rise of mobile sports betting has sparked a conversation about the effects of gambling on an increasingly-large population. Gambling can be a serious problem, and there are plenty of legitimate ways to spend money to help those struggling with addiction, like investing in mental health treatment and social services.

There is even value in studying the causes of addiction – but pigeons?

According to Sen. Rand Paul’s 2021 Waste Report, the National Institute of Health (NIH) granted $465,339 to researchers at Reed College in Portland, Ore. to “create a token-based economy where pigeons are taught to gamble with slot machines.” The pigeons were provided tokens, and could then choose whether spend, save, or gamble them.

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Researchers claim this study aids in the understanding of behavioral economics. The NIH never felt the need to explain how pigeons’ gambling habits relate to the gambling habits of humans. However, they did admit the study focused more on “laboratory models rather than practical applications.”

It is also unclear why this study ended up costing so much. While we’re not experts, pigeons and tokens probably come relatively cheap. What essential equipment and tools cost nearly half a million dollars?

If a researcher really wanted to better understand gambling addiction, they could collect data at a casino, conduct surveys of former and current gambling addicts, or perform randomized human experiments in a controlled setting.

All of these might yield useful results that could actually help those suffering from addiction. Instead, our government chose to fund a study on pigeons.

Syndicated with permission from RealClearWire.

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