Biological Approach Applied to Gambling and Smoking - Pschology A Unit 4 A2 Edexcel

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Biological Approach applied to gambling and smoking
Biological approach is reductionist as they reduce a complex idea and put it down to an imbalance of brain
chemicals and the influence of specific genes. It is therefore a very limited view as it ignores other plausible
causes, such as irrational thoughts, social context etc.
Doesn't explain why some forms of gambling are more addictive than others, e.g. Breen et al 2001: men
and women hooked on video and online gambling became compulsive gamblers within a year, whereas
those who were hooked on horse race betting took about 3½ years to become compulsive gamblers
Initiation ­ studies show that gambling runs in families
Shah et al, 2005: twin study, found evidence of genetic transmission of gambling in men
Black et al, 2006: first degree relatives of pathological gamblers are more likely to suffer from pathological
gambling than distant relatives, demonstrates strong genetic link
Ignores environmental and situational factors i.e. social-modelling
Fowler, 2007: looked at cases of over 1000 twins and found that environmental and social factors were
crucial in the initiating of addictive behaviours, whereas genetic and neurological factors were more linked
with maintenance
May explain some individual differences, like why some people develop pathological gambling and others
with the same environmental experiences don't, also explains why some people are more resistant to
treatment and are likely to relapse
1) Pituitary-adrenal response ­ research suggests pathological gambling is associated with an underactive
pituitary-adrenal response to gambling stimuli
Paris et al, 2010: measured gamblers cortisol levels before and after watching a video of their preferred
form of gambling and a video of a neutral stimuli, found recreational gamblers had significantly increased
salivary cortisol levels after both videos, compared to pathological gamblers, who demonstrated no salivary
cortisol increase for either video
2) Sensation-seeking ­ research suggests that there is a difference in likeliness to gamble based on
Zuckerman, 1979: there are individual differences in the need for optimal amounts of stimulation. High
sensation-seekers have a lower appreciation of risk and anticipate arousal as more positive than do low
sensation-seekers. This makes high sensation-seekers more likely to gamble.
Relapse ­ pathological gamblers are those who need intense stimulation and excitement, and thus look for boredom
Blaszczynski et al, 1990: pathological gamblers had significantly higher boredom proneness than a control
group of non-gamblers, suggesting poor tolerance for boredom may contribute to repetitive gambling
Initiation ­ family and twin studies estimate that the heritability of smoking is between 39% and 80%
Vink et al, 2005: studied 1,572 Dutch twin pairs, found that all individual differences in smoking initiation
could be explained by genetic (44%) and environmental (56%) influences
Boardman et al, 2008: US study of 348 MZ twin pairs and 321 same sex DZ pairs, estimated heritability for
regular smoking to be 42%
Cultural bias ­ studies only took place in two countries
Lacks internal validity ­ didn't compare findings to a control group so cannot confirm a causal relationship
between genetics and smoking
1) The effects of nicotine ­ although initiation of smoking might be influenced more by environmental factors,
regular smoking is linked more strongly to individual differences in nicotine metabolism. Nicotine affects brain
chemistry by activating nAChRs in the brain, giving the smoker short lived feelings of pleasure. Nicotine withdrawal
symptoms are related to the drop of nicotine levels in the blood in the few hours after smoking, which negatively
effects mood and concentration. These feelings can be alleviated by smoking another cigarette.
Vink et al, 2005: nicotine dependence was influenced primarily by genetic factors (75%)
2) Pre-natal exposure to nicotine ­ research suggests that mothers who smoke heavily when pregnant will have
children who, should they start smoking, are more likely to become addicted

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Buka et al, 2003: although an expected mother's smoking during pregnancy doesn't increase the likeliness of
the child smoking, should the child start smoking, they are more likely to become addicted. Data collected
from 1248 women aged 17 to 39 between 1959 and 1966
Time period bias could prevent these results from being generalised as this era is famous for its `freedom' ­
smoking was common, parents would smoke regularly in front of children, and health risks were not as well
known.…read more


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