Cognitive models - Addictive behaviour

  • Created by: Amy
  • Created on: 14-06-13 14:40

Cognitive models

Cognitive models focus on mental processes such as memory, learning and perception. Addictions seem to occur when people have irrational beliefs that they need to rely more on external factors (such as drugs and alcohol) in order to feel happy, in control and/ or able to cope with the day.

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BECK ET AL. (1993) has gone on to explain how negative beliefs held by individuals can lead to addictive behaviours. Initially an individual may think that it would be fun/ daring to drink/ take drugs etc. Gradually the individual grows to be more and more reliant on the behaviour and their thought processes also start to change and become more negative.

For instance, thinking ‘I need… to get through the day/ lesson/ college’ etc. It has also been suggested that such individuals also hold very negative views about themselves and may also have depression.

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The cognitive processing model assumes that behaviours often become AUTOMATIC over a period of time. For example, we are all able to engage in conversations, make a drink or walk home without really having to pay too much attention to what we are doing because it has become an automatic behaviour. Similarly, addictive behaviours are considered to have simply become automatic. It is also believed that when behaviours become automatic it is difficult to actually stop doing them, particularly when everyday situations may present us with cues that trigger the automatic behaviour. 

For instance, agreeing to go for a drink on a Friday night because this is the usual thing. This can make abstaining from drinking alcohol extremely difficult.  Furthermore, as refraining from the addictive behaviour would take an enormous amount of mental effort, it is often even more difficult for anyone experiencing further stresses in their lives (work, relationships and children) in comparison to someone without such stressors.

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Another reason for addictive behaviour may be that they actually have an impaired ability to control their actions. This could be because they actually have faulty thought processes when it comes to weighing up the consequences of their actions.

AINSLIE (1992) has suggested that people with an addictive behaviour usually attach too much weight to the IMMEDIATE GRATIFICATION (reward) for engaging in the behaviour and far too little weight to the long term benefits of avoiding partaking. 

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Dysfunctional beliefs: - thoughts about smoking in order to: be accepted by others, relax, concentrate, etc


Dysfunctional beliefs: thoughts about the individual’s perceived need to gamble in order to feel good /solve financial problems.

Irrational thoughts may encourage risk taking. 

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Dysfunctional beliefs: Dysfunctional thoughts concerning the ‘need’ to smoke. (be skinny, fit in)

Cognitive processing model: Behaviour becomes AUTOMATIC. Cues can also trigger smoking – time of day, seeing other smokers, etc – helping to maintain behaviour. Likely to become a habit


Dysfunctional beliefs: Dysfunctional thoughts concerning the ‘need’ to gamble.

Cognitive processing model: Behaviour becomes AUTOMATIC. Cues can also trigger gambling – being in a bar – helping to maintain behaviour. Likely to become a habit.

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Smoking & Gambling

Dysfunctional thoughts: Dysfunctional thoughts concerning the ‘need’ to smoke/gambling 

Cognitive Myopia: Individuals may focus more on the satisfaction experienced for ‘giving in’ and smoking/gambling rather than on the long term health benefits etc of continuing to abstain.

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Beck’s ideas of dysfunctional thinking have strong explanatory power regarding smoking addiction. Dysfunctional beliefs could be:

  • ‘I need a cigarette’
  • ‘Having a cigarette will calm me down’
  • ‘Having a cigarette will help me concentrate’.

The cognitive processing model also explains smoking addiction by suggesting that avoiding smoking can be very difficult, especially when presented with cues that could trigger smoking

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TONEATTO (1999) Review of research (meta analysis) and found that there were typical cognitive distortions of problem gamblers.

  • Magnify gambling skills
  • Minimise others’ gambling skills
  • Superstitious beliefs
  • Attributions and gambler’s fallacy (the belief that random events going one way will even out – a run of reds will be followed by a run of blacks)
  • Selective memory
  • Illusion of control over luck.
  • Strongly supports the assumption that dysfunctional beliefs are linked with problem gambling. 
  •  Do these cognitive distortions contribute to maintenance of the addiction or are they a consequence
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Oei and Raylu (2004) - Children’s attitudes towards gambling seem to be heavily influenced by their parents and in particular their fathers

Delfabbro and Winefield (1999) investigated the types of thoughts experienced whilst gambling. They found that 75% of game-related thought were irrational and actually encouraged further risk-taking. Problems with self-report?

 Mood also seems to be an important factor, with many gamblers saying that they gamble to escape depression or after a stressful day

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