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Example Answers for Addiction: A Level Psychology, Paper 3, June 2019 (AQA)


Last updated 23 Dec 2019

Here are some example answers to the longer written Paper 3 questions on Addiction in the 2019 AQA exams.

Question 33

Learning theory suggests that gambling can be learned through operant conditioning. If gambling behaviour is either positively reinforced through winning money or negatively reinforced by offering a distraction from the stresses of everyday life, then it is likely to be repeated. In the study the machine ‘wins’ act as the positive reinforcement.

Skinner’s research demonstrated that different patterns of reinforcement (reinforcement schedules) lead to difference patterns of response and this is what the researchers are manipulating. Partial reinforcement is when behaviour is not reinforced every time and there are different types. Fixed interval is used in this research as some of the machines are set so that they pay out every 2 minutes. However, this will lead to the person stopping gambling quite quickly (extinction) if the machine stops paying out. Variable ratio is also used in this research, where some of the machines are set to pay out on average after every 10th bet. Variable ratio is highly resistant to extinction, which is why the researchers found on some of the machines people would continue to play for a long time after their last win.

Question 34

Psychologists generally agree there is no such thing as an ‘addictive personality’, however certain personality traits have been linked to addiction. For example, research has linked antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) to addiction, but the key trait is probably impulsivity which leads to risk-taking, sensation seeking and a chaotic lifestyle. All of these traits might predispose someone to an addiction. In addition, Cloninger identified 3-dimensions of addictive behaviour, which are high novelty seeking, inhibited harm avoidance and high reward dependency.

Evidence to support personality as a risk factor in the development of addiction comes from Schneider et al. (2015) who found that novelty seeking was the trait most associated with increased involvement with alcohol, cannabis and cocaine. However, the findings of such research are correlational, meaning it is not possible to show cause and effect. It could be that once someone develops an addiction this causes them to take more risks or engage in novelty seeking, especially as studies are often conducted retrospectively once the person has an addiction.

It is also likely that personality traits are partly genetically determined. For example, Ray et al. (2009) were able to show that novelty-seeking was associated with genetic markers for the D4 dopamine receptor. The same research showed that novelty-seekers were more likely to become problem drinkers, which could be because they are more sensitive to the rewarding effects of dopamine brought about by consuming alcohol. A further claim is that other risk factors such as stress or peer and family influences are more important than personality traits. Some research has suggested that difference combinations of risk factors partly determine the nature and severity of addiction, and some personality traits might actually be protective. For example,

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