Learning Approach applied to gambling and smoking - Psychology A Unit 4 Edexcel

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Learning Approach applied to gambling and smoking
Reductionist ­ the theory takes a complex human behaviour and attempts to explain it in terms of
contingencies and patterns of reward, and takes no account of individual differences or cognitive processes
Initiation ­ if behaviour produces a consequence that the individual finds rewarding, the behaviour will become more
frequent (operant conditioning)
Griffiths, 2009: gamblers playing slot machines may become addicted because of the many rewards
(psychological, physiological, social and financial)
Delfabbro and Winefield, 1999: gamblers are not always rational in their thinking, which can explain why
gamblers repeat their behaviour due to financial rewards, despite the ratio of winning to losing being vastly
Difficult to apply the same principles to different forms of gambling depending on the length of time
between the behaviour and the consequence
1) Intermittent reinforcement ­ operant conditioning model proposes that gamblers continue their behaviour due to
occasional reinforcement ­ they become used to waiting for long periods of time for their next win, and their
gambling behaviour is reinforced by an occasional pay out. It could be argued that the long wait builds up the final
reinforcement, making it seem better than it actually is.
Fails to explain why only some people become addicted ­ though many people may gamble in their lives,
very few become addicted, suggesting there must be some psychological factors associated in the
transition from gambling behaviour to gambling addiction
2) Social approval: behaviour may also be reinforced by approval from peers
Lambos et al, 2007: those gamblers who receive positive reinforcement from peers and family members
not only gambled more than other respondents, but also were more likely to continue the behaviour in the
1) Conditioned cues ­ through classical conditioning, gamblers learn to associate other stimuli (such as lights, sounds
of a casino, presence of other gamblers) with their gambling. Therefore, after a period of abstinence, if a gambler
comes into contact with these stimuli, or conditioned cues, they are at higher risk of relapse.
2) Approach-avoidance conflict ­ gamblers go through a `roller-coaster' of feelings towards their behaviour, due
to the positive and negative consequences associated with it. Therefore, after a period of abstinence, the gambler
will reach a time when they have positive feelings towards gambling, and will need to control the increased arousal
and delay their need for reinforcement.
Lack of research evidence to support relapse theories
Generally research appears to have an age bias, with much research being focussed on adolescents, without
supplying evidence to show that the majority of smokers take up the habit/start the addiction in their youth
1) Availability of role models ­ experimental smoking is primarily a form of parental or peer modelling and the
vicarious reinforcement that leads young people to expect positive physical and social consequences from smoking
Kandel and Wu, 1995: SLT explanations of experimental smoking propose that young people begin smoking
as a consequence of social models of people around them who smoke
DiBlaso and Brenda, 1993: peer group influences have been found to be a primary influence for
adolescents who smoke
Karcher and Finn, 2005: youths whose parents smoke are 1.88 times more likely to take up smoking. If their
siblings smoked, they were 2.64 times more likely, and if close friends did, they were up to 8 times more
Suggests adolescents only expect positive consequences, which is untrue, as adolescents are frequently
taught about risks of smoking in today's day and age ­ therefore, this may suggest a time period bias of the
research support, as it cannot necessarily explain behaviour in today's society

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Popularity as a positive reinforcement ­ popularity among peers may be seen as a form of positive
reinforcement to the initiation of smoking
Mayeux, 2008: found a positive relationship between smoking at age 16 and boys' popularity two years
later; extremely reductionist view as it ignores individual differences; gender bias ­ only concludes results
found in boys, which cannot be applied to the wider population as they only represent half; age bias ­ cannot
be operationalised to wider population as it only studied 16 year…read more


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