Addiction - Nicotine addiction explained by learning theory

  • Created by: Besme
  • Created on: 09-06-18 13:47
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  • Addiction - Nicotine addiction explained by learning theory
    • Classical Conditioning (cue relativity)
      • The pleasurable effects of smoking are known as 'primary reinforces'
        • As a result of the effects on the brain's dopamine reward system, so people are more likely to smoke again
      • Other stimuli that are present before or after become associated with the pleasurable effect as known as 'secondary reinforces'
        • Smoking in certain areas or people will also become 'secondary reinforces'
      • Stimuli act as cues because the body produces similar physiological/psychological response to nicotine
        • This has been measured through self-report of craving, or heart rates
    • Operant Conditioning
      • Postitive reinforcement
        • Addiction to nicotine can be party explained by the concept of PR, as the consequence of smoking is rewarding
        • Nicotine is a powerful reinforce due to the effects of the dopamine reward system in the brain
          • As it releases into nucleus encumbers which produce feeling of euphoria
      • Negative reinforcement
        • Addiction to nicotine is better explained by NR as acute withdrawal syndromes are present
          • The wide range of withdrawal syndromes make it very difficult for smokers to stop, so they start again to remove such syndromes
        • Behavioral syndromes : disturbed sleep pattern and agitation
        • Cognitive syndromes : poor concentration, mood disturbed
  • Evaluation of learning theory explaining nicotine addiction
    • A strength is there is research support from animal studies. There is a great amount of research on animals to confirm the role of conditioning in nicotine addiction. For example, research gave rats the choice between normal water spots or nicotine ater spots.
      • The rats significantly choose the nicotine water spots This suggests the effects of nicotine positively reinforce
    • A limitation is there is gender differences, as research found that women are less successful at giving up smoking than men. This is because women are more sensitive to smoking related cues, which makes it difficult to stop smoking.
      • This has been explained by the concept of 'self-efficacy' which claims that females are less confident in stopping smoking, therefore will undermine their attempts
    • Another limitation is there is limited explanation. As the theory is unable to explain why more than half of adolescents become dependent smokers. This is difficulty for theory to explain in terms of factors/process as likely other elements are involved
    • A strength of the theory is research support for cues reactivity. Researchers conducted mega-analysis of 41 studies on the effects of cue reactivity.
      • The study used dependent and non-dependent smokers using images related cues e.g. lighters. Measured self-reports of craving with several physiological indicators of arousal e.g. heart rate
        • Found that dependent smokers reacted strongly to cues presented by reporting high cravings and increased arousal
    • Another strength is real-life application, as treatment programmed have been developed on the bases of conditioning such as aversion therapy. Which counter-conditions nicotine addition by associating the pleasurable effects with painful electric shocks


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