Explanations for Smoking

Biological, social and cognitive + evaluations

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Genetic vulnerability: Sheilds (1962) twin study found high concordance for smoking.

Sensitivity of dopamine receptors: nicotine increases dopamine.


Activation of dopamine reward pathways: body stops producing as much nicotine because it expects nicotine, so nicotine is needed to maintain normal dopamine levels

Avoid withdrawal effects caused by the physical addiction


Physical craving and withdrawal symptoms make relapse likely

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Learning Model


Modelling and vicarious reinforcement through parents and peers

Positive reinforcement from peers eg. attention

Direct reinforcement from effects eg. weight loss, reduced stress


Reinforcement from social group

Negative reinforcement - avoiding withdrawal


Exposure to cues classically conditioned to smoking, eg. after a meal

Negative reinforcment - seeking removal of withdrawal effects

Directly punished by increased stress and weight gain etc

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Learning Model - Research

2x likely to smoke if parents do. 7x less likely to smoke if parents are anti-smoking.

Michell and West (1996) showed that peer pressure is complex and teenagers may not be so susceptible to it as once thought.

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Expectancies of positive effects

Negative effects minimised by high self-efficacy "I can control my smoking"


Beleif in positive aspects

Expectencies of withdrawal symptoms

High self-efficacy "I can give up any time"


Percieved negative consequences

High self-efficacy

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Cognitive - Research

A study researching reasons for 11-12 year olds starting to smoke found that their behavioural intentions were a good predictor of subsequent smoking behaviour.

Cognitive factors may be key in developing anti-smoking campaigns.

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Overall Commentary

Interaction of all three approaches is probably best for explaining smoking addiction.

Smoking is seen as a social habbit so social factors are as key as biological factors.

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