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.
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.
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.
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.