Skip 
Navigation Link
Addictions
Resources
Basic Information
What is Addiction?What Causes Addiction?How Do You Get Addicted?
Introduction to How Do You Get Addicted? The Biology of Addiction and RecoveryHow Does Addiction Affect the Brain?Addiction Changes the Brain's ChemistryAddiction Changes the Brain's Communication PathwaysAddiction Changes Brain Structures and Their FunctioningImpaired Decision-making, Impulsivity, and Compulsivity: Addictions' Effect on the Cerebral CortexDrug Seeking and Cravings: Addictions' Effect on the Brain's Reward SystemHabit Formation, Craving, Withdrawal, and Relapse Triggers: Addictions' Effect on the AmygdalaStress Regulation and Withdrawal: Addictions' Effect on the HypothalamusThe Good News: The Brain Also Helps to Reverse Addiction The Psychology of Addiction and RecoveryLearning Theory and AddictionClassical Conditioning and AddictionOperant Conditioning and AddictionSocial Learning Theory and AddictionCognitive Theory and Addiction (Thoughts, Beliefs, Expectations)Cognitive Theory and Addiction ContinuedCognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Improving Coping SkillsAddiction and Other Psychological DisordersDevelopmental Theory and AddictionRecovery from Addiction: The Psychology of Motivation and ChangeAddiction: Social and Cultural InfluencesAddiction and Sociological Influences: Culture and EthnicityRecovery from Addiction: Becoming Aware of Cultural InfluencesRecovery from Addiction: The Powerful Influence of Families Recovery from Addiction: Social SupportThe Spirituality of Addiction & RecoveryThe Spirituality of Addiction & Recovery ContinuedIncorporating Spirituality into Recovery from Addiction
Signs and Symptoms of AddictionTreatment for AddictionReferencesResourcesFrequentlly Asked Questions about Addiction
TestsLatest NewsQuestions and AnswersLinksBook ReviewsSelf-Help Groups
Related Topics

Anxiety Disorders
Depression: Depression & Related Conditions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Learning Theory and Addiction

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

For over a century, psychologists have investigated the ways humans and animals learn. This research has resulted in a vast body of knowledge. Throughout the years, various learning theories have been proposed, tested, and refined. Because of this research, we now have a solid understanding of the how learning occurs. This knowledge is extremely useful in treating many types of psychological and emotional problems. Therefore, it is not surprising that the application of learning theory is critical to the understanding of the addiction and recovery process. As such, it remains an important area of addictions research.

In this section, we discuss only a few highlights of this fascinating area. In particular, we will focus on three fundamental types of learning:

1) Learning that occurs because of paired associations, called classical (or respondent) conditioning.

2) Learning that occurs because of a cause-and-effect relationship between a behavior and the consequences of that behavior (rewards and punishments). Psychologists call this type of learning operant conditioning.

3) The third type of learning called social learning. Almost all of our behaviors are to some degree influenced by these three learning principles.