Learning Models of Addiction

Operant conditioning, classical conditioning and SLT

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Operant Conditioning

Addictive behaviour is more likely to be repeated if it's reinforced or rewarded, eg. approval from peers.

Some may be repeated due to negative reinforcement - the removal of unpleasant consequences, eg. smoking to stop feelings of withdrawal.

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Operant Conditioning - Commentary

Can explain many aspects of addiction.

Doesn't account for cognitive processes, eg. descisions about behaviours.

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Classical Conditioning

Repeatidly using a substance in the same environment leads to an association, so whenever these stimuli are present, the body expects to recieve the drug. 

These stimuli can cause the body to anticipate the drug, compensating in advance for the effects it usually delivers. These feelings are usually the opposite of the drug effects, so the person then wants the drug to remove these feelings.

Compensatory effects oppose the effect of the drug, so larger quanitities are needed.

If the person doesn't take the drugs, they feel withdrawal symptoms.

If an alcoholic passes a pub, they might experience a psycholoical response to the smell/sight or alcohol. This would bring back memories which would create a need to drink.

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Classical Conditioning - Commentary

Supported by Siegel et al (1982) who found that rats which were in a room which they had learnt to associate with heroin were half as likely to die from an overdose than those in an unfamiliar room due to the compenastory effects caused by familiar stimuli which prepare the body.

This could explain why addicts sometimes die after taking a dose they have coped with in the past.

Many smokers report smoking at certain cues, such as after eating or while consuming alcohol.

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Social Learning Theory

Modelling - if a persons model, eg. a child's parents, is seen smoking, then they might imitate the behaviour, leading to an addiction in smoking.

Expectations - If they see their parents enjoying a drink, they would learn to think that drinking is enjoyable, encouraging them to copy.

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Social Learning Theory - Commentary

Takes cognitive factors into account

Could explain the importance of media

Has implications for prevention of addiction

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Learning Model AO2

Could be used alongside the biological models, i.e pysiological effects of addictive substances (dopamine) act as the reward.

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