Behavioural Explanation for Addiction

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  • Operant Conditioning - A person starts to smoke in order to gain the powerful reinforcement of peer approval.
  • Accepting a cigarette allows access to social groups and reduce or eliminate bullying.
  • The new smoker associates these positive feeling with smoking, positive reinforces cause production of dopamine which provide the positive feeling and reward the behaviour.
  • Any behaviour that an individual finds rewarding is likely to become more frequent.


  • McAllister found the association of adulthood and rebellion with smoking was powerful enough reinforcement for a new smoking to overcome the first few unpleasant attempts and persist with the habit.
  • However, Michell & West found not all teenagers are susceptible to peer approval, those that have developed a 'readiness' for smoking will initiate, but teenagers who have previously decided not to smoke have coping strategies and resist peer pressure.
  • Jarvis found that children whose families smoked were also more susceptible to peer pressure to start smoking.


  • Social Learning Theory - new smokers see role models being rewarded for there smoking behaviour, role models are seen as part of the in crowd so to achieve the same status a person may take up smoking.
  • Winett found role models were most influential if they were the same age, race, ethnic background as the new smoker and more influential if they had a high status.
  • Lader & Matherson  found parental attitudes were also a strong influence. Children were twice as likely to smoke if their parents also smoked.
  • Murray's study supported parental influence, he found children were seven times less likely to smoke if their parents strongly disapproved of smoking compared to the children of smokers.


  • The US National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) found 90% of US smoker started as adolescents and participants said this was mainly due to observation of their peers.
  • However this study was retrospective so accuracy of the information could be low, the study was also a questionnaire so is subject to social desirability bias and demand characteristics.
  • Real World Application, DiBlasio & Benda found teaching teenagers to resist peer pressure was an effective treatment programme.
  • Botvin found effective prevention drugs should be targeted at teenagers as they are most susceptible to start smoking via peer pressure.



  • Classical Conditioning, once a drug habit has initiated it is maintained by the threat of withdrawal symptoms.
  • Nicotine is an Unconditioned Stimuli (UCS) and the bodies reaction is and Unconditioned Response (UCR), social situations, cigarettes packets, smell of tobacco , sound of lighters are some of the potential Neutral Stimuli (NS)
  • Overtime the NS is associated with the UCR, so the NS becomes a Conditioned Stimuli (CS) and can trigger the USR by itself making that a conditioned response (CR)
  • This means over time social situations such as relaxing with friends, taking a lunch break, or smell/site of cigarettes cause a conditioned response (the bodies response to smoking) so whenever there is a cue they…




Good notes, but no A03??



A great summary of addiction which allows you to include your own further evaluation points!

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