The Learning Model of Addiction

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Social Learning: AO1

Initiation:

  • Observed valued role models indulging in the addictive behaviour and imitating their behaviour

Vicarious reinforcement: seeing valued role models being rewarded for their addictive behaviour makes it more likely we will imitate them

Operant conditioning: AO1
Maintenance:

Positive reinforcement: we will learn a behaviour if we are rewarded for it
e.g. Dopamine rush, being a part of a 'cool' group, weight loss

Negative reinforcement: we learn a behaviour if it enables us to avoid negative feelings
e.g. Withdrawal symptoms

Classical conditioning: AO1

Relapse:

Cue reactivity paradigm:

  • Addicts associate environmental cues such as lights and packets of cigarettes/scratch cards with addiction
  • These cues then begin to elicit withdrawal symptoms that lead a smoker to crave nicotine or a gambler to crave the buzz of gambling and relapse 

EVALUATION:

Strengths:

  • Individual differences in addictive behaviour can be explained by different learning
    experiences

Weaknesses:

  • Simplistic view - more than just stimulus response
  • Ignores the convincing biological evidence

However...

  • Biopsychosocial: biological vulnerability interacts with social influences

Application to smoking: 

Initiation:

Lader and Matheson (1991): parents are a major influence on whether children start smoking. Children twice as likely to smoke if parents are smokers

... This shows that observing others has an impact on whether you start…

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