Learning Models of Addiction

Learning Models of Addiction

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Operant Conditioning

This idea works on the idea of Positive and Negative Reinforcement.

Positive Reinforcement: When a behaviour leads to a pleasant circumstance it is likely to be repeated. The pleasant expericnce triggers a release of Dopamine in the area of the brain called the Mesolimbic system.

Negative Reinforcement: When a behaviour stops something unpleasant happening, it is likely to be repeated. E.g An addict repeating a behaviour to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms.

So in the Initiation a person would try a behaviour, find it rewarding(Positive Reinforcement) and pleasent and then repeat it and eventually get addicted

The Maintainance would be done to avoid the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (Negative Reinforcement) and also because the pleasant rewards still exist.

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A strength is that it shows that a conscious decision is not always being made and can explain why some people experience a conflict between a conscious desire to stop the behaviour but the unconscious motivation to carry on.

A weakness is that many people try addictive things in their lives but not all get addicted this shows that there has to be other factors involved to allow it to become an addiction.

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Classical Conditioning

Initiation: It suggests that we learn through association and that we learnt to associate the behaviour with the stimulus, it also says that there can be a secondary reinforcement which stimulate the same reponse as the thing itself for example research has found that for some alcoholics, the sight of a pub triggers the same response as alcohol itself.

Maintainance: Just like the others the behaviour is maintained through the threat of withdrawal symptoms

Relapse: It is suggested that the relapse will be triggered through cue's such as the pub for instance.

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There is evidence to support the idea that a stimuli that precedes or occurs at the same time as the addictive behaviour is likely to elicit the same response as the behaviour itself.

Example: Vietnam verterins who had become addicted to heroin while at war were less likely to relapse back home as the environment had hardly any of the triggers which they associated with the drug.

The treatment available is called cue discrimination which is where the secondary stimulus is presented to the individual without the chance to engage in the actual behaviour. It eventually dissociates the two.

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Social Learning Theory

People learn through observation and experience.

It says we experience thing either through direct or vicarious reinforcement

It suggests that we will usually imitate someone that we admire and we are likely to imitate a behaviour that we see to be rewarding.

The SLT uses the idea of classical conditioning to explain maintainance and relapse

It says you see people in your 'In Group' doing a behaviour so you copy it to fit in, we also maintain it because we see it as rewading and we relapse due to an environmental trigger.

Evaluation: It can explain individual differneces as a lot of people have tried a behaviour but not got addicted

Neither conditioning type is fully adequate enough to explain addiction

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