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Outline the biological explanation of initiation

One biological model for the initiation of addiction is faulty genes, these may make people more vulnerable to starting an addiction to. This is because faulty genes (e.g. genetic mutations) lead to specific personality types that are more likely to start an addiction. For example, some genes are liked with anti-social personalities. Other genes produce novelty-seeking  or impulsive personalities, and any of these personality types may linked with starting an addiction. This is because these types are more attracted than average to trying out addictive activities such as smoking/gambling for the first time. Some of the genes involves with the serotonin system may be involved with impulsiveness, Also, genes involved with the dopamine reward system may be involved in novelty-seeking personalities. For people with some faulty versions of these genes, the dopamine reward system in the nucleus accumbens is weak. They may need more stimulation than average to get the kind of Hedonic response that many of us enjoy without the need for starting an addiction.

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Research evidence for smoking (biological)

Bush– 250 American Smokers. The findings showed that individuals with an Impulsive Personality started smoking earlier at age 15.6 years, compared to those who ad a different personality type started smoking later at age 17.3 years. This suggests that people with an impulsive personality are vulnerable to start smoking because they make rash decisions and do not think about the consequences of their actions.


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Research evidence for gambling (biological)

Dreber– Studied DRD4 (a gene for dopamine receptors). People with this gene have a weak dopamine reward circuit, and therefore a Novelty-seeking personality, which means they have to work harder to get a ‘hedonic response’. In a lab experiment, 98 Harvard students, a quarter of whom has the DRD4 gene, were asked to play a  game. Those with th gene gambled significantly more money. This suggests people with a novelty seeking personality have to gamble more money to get a hedonic response.


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Outline the learning explanation of initiation

Social Learning Theory, is a highly relevant model for the initiation of addiction, social learning theory involves imitation, e.g. copy the behaviour that can lead to starting an addiction. The process involved are attention of the details of smoking/gambling, retention of important details, motivation to carry out smoking/gambling and finally reproduction of the actual behaviour. Motivation is influenced by vicarious learning, such as seeing the rewards of smoking/gambling gained by whoever is modelling the behaviour, or perhaps seeing the sanctions for those who are not modelling the behaviour. Although the rewards are not direct, the person develops an expectancy that they will gain the same benefits. With starting an addiction to smoke/ gamble there is a strong element of identification driving the motivation: the model is respected in some way; perhaps because they are rebels, or perhaps because they are a values representative of a sub-cultures. Of course, people don’t often imitate addiction. They imitate the behaviour that leads to addiction.

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Research evidence for smoking (learning)

Dirocco– The media uses vicarious rewards to encourage people to start smoking. A questionnaire study showed that cigarette advertisements that displayed highly relaxing imaged were associated with increased intentions to smoke particularly in females, suggesting vicarious reinforcement has a role to play in intention off addiction.

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Research evidence for gambling (learning)

Gupta– A questionnaire study of 500 Canadian children aged between 9 and 14 indicated that more than 50% gamble regularly, 86% in their own home with family, only 10% of these feared being caught. This suggests that gambling addiction may start because individuals observe and imitate behaviour of role models in hope of receiving similar rewards themselves.

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Outline the cognitive explanation of initiation

A cognitive model for the initiation of addiction is the ‘theory of planned behaviour’. This model proposes that the factors the predict intention to smoke/gamble are, attitudes to the costs and benefits of initiating smoking or gambling. This may involve magnification of the benefits and minimisation of the costs. Attitudes to social norms (people who find themselves against the social norms pf their friendship group can rationalise this by saying they don’t care about conforming of finding a new friendship group). Of they believe they will be able to control the behaviour. A second aspect of the model is that intention is a strong predictor of actual behaviour, and that is when it is not, it is usually because a person irrationally believes they had more control than they actually had (to resist starting an addiction). For many people starting an addiction, social norms and their attitude to social norms features very strongly, which partly explains why particular types of addiction can be culture-specific.

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Research evidence for smoking (cognitive)

Bidstrup– 912 Danish 13 year olds who had never smoked were given questionnaire relating to the the TPB, and then were followed up after 6 months. The strongest predictor of smoking related to social norms: those children who felt smoking was socially acceptable were more likely to start smoking, particularly in their father or best friend smoked.

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Research evidence for gambling (cognitive)

Walker– Telephone interviews on 430 Canadians intentions to play the lottery. It was found that attitudes relating to the emotion pro’s and con’s were the most important predictor of starting to play the lottery, meaning people were more likely to start gambling if they felt the excitement was worth the disappointment.

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