Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement has been shown to be one cause for the repetition of a behavior. Positive reinforcement is the desirable reward of a behavior, which tends to result in a repeat of that behavior, in anticipation of the same reward.  This repetition of behavior can be applied to the repetition of drug use in addicted individuals.
    Most experiments with positive reinforcement in animals involve the reward of food for a behavior such as pressing a lever.  When the animal presses the lever, food is given as a reward.  When the behavior is repeated, the reward is given.  The animal learns to associate its behavior of pressing the lever with receiving food, and therefore repeats the behavior.
    When the reward of this experiment is changed from food to an injection of cocaine, the results are the same.  The animal will continue to press the lever, in order to receive the injection.  When the animal is provided with two levers, one for food and one for the cocaine injection, the animal will choose the injection, even to the point of starving itself to death.
    Another point to make is that there are indeed associations between the physical and psychological reasons for addiction.  When rats are placed in a heroin-reward based experiment, the animal develops a regular schedule of self injection.  Heroin is a drug in which withdrawl symptoms occur, showing that the physiological ramifications can be  a factor.

    The immediacy of reinforcement is key to the establishment of a repetition of behavior.  If an animal which is incapable of long-term memory or imagination is given a slow acting pill that contains a normally positive reinforcing drug, the animal will eventually feel the effects of the pill.  The time between ingesting the drug and its effects will be considerably longer than the time between injecting the same drug and its effects.  This delay allows for the animal to forget the behavior which should be associated with the positive reinforcement.  Therefore, no repetitive behavior is established, compared to the case of the fast acting injection.
    Human beings are on the other hand, capable of remembering the behavior that resulted in the reward.  Even imagining that behavior can initiate repetition.  This is one major reason for the repetition of a behavior, no matter the long term consequences.

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