High-frequency gamblers show increased resistance to extinction following partial reinforcement

Rachel R. Horsley*, Matthew Osborne, Christine Norman, Timothy Wells

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (SciVal)

Abstract

Behaviours that have been rewarded intermittently persist for longer during periods of non-reward than behaviours that have been rewarded continuously. This classic phenomenon is known as the partial reinforcement extinction effect. For decades it has been generally understood that this phenomenon is fundamental to the persistence of gambling in the absence of winning. One obvious, yet untested hypothesis arising from this is that persistent (here, high-frequency) gamblers might be more sensitive to partial reinforcement contingencies. Therefore, our aim was to test the hypothesis that compared to low-frequency gamblers, high-frequency gamblers would show greater resistance to extinction following partial reinforcement in a computer based experiment. Participants were 19 high-frequency gamblers and 21 low-frequency gamblers, all healthy non-smokers aged between 18 and 52. Following partial or continuous reinforcement, persistence of responding in extinction was measured as the number of times a target response was made. After partial reinforcement, high-frequency gamblers made the target response a greater number of times in extinction (compared to low-frequency gamblers). Moreover, the partial reinforcement extinction effect was larger in high-frequency gamblers than in low-frequency gamblers. It remains to be seen whether increased sensitivity to partial reinforcement is a cause or effect of persistent gambling. Nevertheless, the present study represents an important first step in investigating the role of simple partial reinforcement contingencies in determining resistance to extinction in gamblers, the importance of which, whilst hitherto recognised, has never been demonstrated experimentally.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)438-442
Number of pages5
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Volume229
Issue number2
Early online date19 Jan 2012
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Apr 2012

Keywords

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Extinction, Psychological
  • Female
  • Gambling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Reinforcement (Psychology)
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • CAUDATE-PUTAMEN
  • ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS
  • D-AMPHETAMINE
  • LATENT INHIBITION
  • PREE
  • SYSTEMIC AMPHETAMINE
  • EFFECT PREE
  • Conditioning
  • Partial reinforcement
  • Dopamine
  • RECEPTOR GENE
  • NUCLEUS-ACCUMBENS
  • CAGE QUESTIONNAIRE
  • ELECTROLYTIC LESIONS

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