Outline and evaluate the learning theory as an explanation of gambling addiction (10 marks)

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Outline and evaluate the learning theory as an explanation of gambling addiction (10 marks)

Learning theory is learning through

classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social
learning theory
. Learning theory can be applied to the initiation, maintenance and relapse
of a gambling addiction.

The initiation
of gambling can begin through operant conditioning; if you gamble (on the
lottery, horses, scratch cards etc) you could possibly win mone
y in return. This reinforces
gambling as a good thing as by winning money you are being rewarded. This will continue
even if one does not win

because of social learning theory i.e. through seeing others win
especially if it is frequent winnings.


However
, these people
will hold irrational beliefs
(cognitive) of why they did not win and why they’ll win next time. There are many different
rewards that one can receive through gambling, these are: physiological rewards like getting
an adrenaline rush, psycho
logical rewards like getting a near miss, social rewards like
receiving peer praise and the financial rewards like if you win money. Griffiths (2009)
supports the belief of one experiencing many rewards as he did a study with slot machines
and found that
gambling does create these rewards
. It also supports operant conditioning
as an explanation in learning theory as to why initiation of gambling addiction begins.
Although this is a reliable study it can only be applied to those who are addicted to gambli
ng
on slot machines and not any other type of gambling.
Operant conditioning does not
explain other types of gambling e.g. sports betting which has a much longer time lapse
between bet and outcome and is more about skill than just pure luck. This means t
hat
people who participate in sports betting a lot of the
time has

a prior knowledge of who is
more likely to win base
d on previous facts a
nd figures so these people
m
ay

not have any
cognitive biases

over what they bet on as they bet on things that they kn
ow have a high
chance of winning.

Learning theory can also be applied to the maintenance of gambling through intermitten
reinforcement as operant conditioning shows that people continue to gamble due to this
and that is a characteristic of most types of ga
mbling because of this a gambler can go a
long period of time without reward but have their gambling behaviour reinforced by an
occasional pay out. This is linked to the learning theory as the gambler learns to expect a
reward so when they do not get it t
hey will continue until they get rewarded again.
Weatherley et al (2004) conducted a study and found that those who had more wins on a
slot machine (even if it wasn’t big money) were more likely to continue playing on the
computer simulated slot machine a
fterwards. This therefore supports operant conditioning
explanation
that a random ration reinforcement schedule can and will maintain gambling
behaviour. Social approval is another reason for maintenance as your behaviour is
reinforced when you get prais
e from others. Lambos et al (2007) found that peers and
family of problem gamblers were more likely to approve of gambling and these gamblers
not only gambled more than the average gambler but intended to continue doing so in the
future. This shows that
their social relations may not realise the extent of the gamblers
addiction or may also be into gambling themselves so encourage one another. If someone
gets support for gambling then they will be less likely

to see gambling as a problem as it is
seen as
acceptable to them and to all those around them. Also if one of these people who
encourage gambling behaviour are this person’s role model then they will be more likely to
carry on gambling and may even do it more in order to impress their role model and
be
more like them.

Learning theory again can be applied to the relapse of gambling addiction. There are
conditioned cues which are when addicts learn through classical conditioning to associate
certain surroundings or smells with their gambling behaviour
so that these stimuli act as a
trigger for gambling because they have the ability to increase arousal. Usually after a time
of abstinence if an individual comes into contact with these conditioned cues then they are
at a higher risk of relapsing. This co
uld mean that if peers of a past gambler still gamble
then they could cause a risk of their reformed friend relapsing especially if they have an
external locus of control.
Gambling has a positive and negative consequences for an
individual so they are the
refore motivated to approach and to avoid situations where
gambling is involved. This then creates friction between having the urge to want to gamble
and wanting to stop. If a person has an internal locus of control then they will be less likely
to give
into their approach urges of wanting to gamble and know that they are better off
avoiding gambling all together no matter how strong the urge to gamble is.

This can explain
why people with low self
-
efficacy and an external locus of control are more likely

to relapse.
This is due to them being more reliant on others or some other f
act
or to sort their problems
out for them so because of this they find it difficult to stick with abstaining from gambling
behaviour if they do not have support from others.