The Learning/Behavioural Approach

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The Learning/Behavioural Approach

Initiation - A01

  • Social learning theory can explain initiation through modelling and vicarious reinforcement.
  • People learn addictive behaviour by observing parents/other valued role models performing behaviours like smoking/gambling.
  • Role models are more likely to influence the child's behaviour if they are the same age, sex + ethnic background; role models are more influential if they are perceived to have high status than if they have lower status.

Maintenance - A01

  • Operant conditioning can explain the maintenance of addiction.
  • Positive reinforcement: a behaviour is likely to be repeated if it results in a pleasurable consequence/reward. People may maintain an addiction to continue receiving positive reinforcement of peer approval. May also get direct reinforcement from the positive effects of the addiction e.g. weight loss from smoking or winning money from gambling
  • Negative reinforcement: people are more likely to repeat a behaviour if it removes/avoids an unpleasant stimulus. People continue to smoke/gamble to avoid withdrawal symptoms + loss of peer group support.

Relapse - A01

  • Classical conditioning can explain relapse.
  • Addicts link the materials/situations associated with their addictive behaviours with the addiction itself. These may lead to the addict experiencing strong cravings, as the addict is surrounded by these materials/situations they experience pressure to return to their addictive behaviour.
  • Negative reinforcement: smokers also relapse through negative reinforcement - smoking enables them to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Abstinence may be directly punished by weight gain or loss of social support, making it more likely that the addict will relapse.

Application to Smoking

Initiation - A02

LADER + MATHESON (1991) found that parents are a major influence on whether children start smoking - children are 2x more likely to smoke if their parents do.

MICHELL + WEST (1996) suggest the way in which peers exert their influence is complex…


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