Associative Basis of Addictive Behaviour

Module titleAssociative Basis of Addictive Behaviour
Module codePSY3429
Academic year2016/7
Module staff

Dr Lee Hogarth (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

A diverse set of psychological theories have been proposed to explain addictive behaviour. Whereas animal learning theorists emphasise the role of Pavlovian and instrumental learning, human cognitive psychologists advocate biases in selective processing, behavioural economists favour notions of rational choice, cognitive neuroscientists focus on cognitive impairment and hypofrontality, while clinical psychologists highlight the importance of psychiatric comorbidity. Reconciling these accounts offers an enduring challenge to students of psychology. In each of 10 weeks, a 3-hr session will explore a psychological process that has been proposed to underpin addictive behaviour (plus a lecture in week 1 will integrate the main issues). For each process, 3 key papers will be read for presentation and group discussion in class. The aim is to elaborate something approaching a ‘standard model’ of addiction psychology, which reconciles the various approaches within an essentially associative framework.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of the module is to understand contemporary thought regarding the psychobiological basis of addiction, focussing on the discrepancies between theories and the range of possible research methods from in vitro to epidemiological.

Through attending the weekly seminars and completing the assessments, you will further develop the following academic and professional skills: problem solving (linking theory to practice, developing your own ideas with confidence, showing entrepreneurial awareness, being able to respond to novel and unfamiliar problems), managing structure (identifying key demands of the task, setting clearly defined goals, responding flexibly to changing priorities), time management (managing time effectively individually and within a group), collaboration (respecting the views and values of others, taking initiative and leading others, supporting others in their work, maintaining group cohesiveness and purpose), and audience awareness (presenting ideas effectively in multiple formats, persuading others of the importance and relevance of your views, responding positively and effectively to questions).

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Articulate theories of addiction as studied in a variety of scientific domains, including basic human and animal pre-clinical research, neural assays, treatment outcome trials and epidemiological surveys.
  • 2. Confidently and persuasively orally communicate scientific evidence to substantiate theoretical arguments concerning the nature of human behaviour.
  • 3. Operate within a dynamic group debate to win a point.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Acquire detailed, systematic and comprehensive knowledge within the discipline, with in-depth specialisation at the forefront of the discipline in certain areas, and demonstrate advanced critical understanding of this knowledge and of the limits and provisional nature of this knowledge
  • 5. Review and critically evaluate published work at an advanced level and identify the strengths and weaknesses of this work, and at an advanced level structure this literature to present logical, coherent and sustained arguments to support conclusions at an advanced level
  • 6. Address systematically complex problems at an advanced level which may be framed within unpredictable contexts, think critically, creatively and independently, and fully appreciate the complexities of the issues
  • 7. Understand and apply essential principles in designing novel research, and critically evaluate and analyse empirical evidence, and assess the reliability of empirical evidence using a range of defined techniques at an advanced level
  • 8. Illustrate the wider ethical issues relating to the subject and its application at an advanced level

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 9. Interact effectively and supportively within a learning group
  • 10. Manage your own learning using the full range of resources of the discipline and with minimum guidance
  • 11. Describe your own criteria of self-evaluation and challenge received opinion and reflect on your actions, and seek and make use of feedback
  • 12. Select and manage information, and to undertake competently study tasks with minimum guidance
  • 13. Take responsibility for your own work and criticise it
  • 14. Engage effectively in debate in a professional manner and produce detailed and coherent written work; identify complex problems and apply appropriate knowledge and methods for their solution with confidence and flexibility
  • 15. Act autonomously with minimal supervision or direction, within agreed guidelines
  • 16. Manage time effectively to meet deadlines

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

The module consists of a series of eleven seminars, as follows:

  • Origins and manufacture
  • Distribution; epidemiology
  • Harms; learning primer
  • Neuropharmacology
  • Neuropharmacology; negative reinforcement
  • Positive reinforcement; kinetics
  • Comorbidity; neural mechanisms of control
  • Individual vulnerability; behavioural therapy
  • Behavioural therapy; pharmacotherapy
  • Prevention; prohibition
  • Recap and Q&A

The order in which these seminars are delivered may vary, according to availability of speakers.

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching33Seminars (11 x 3 hours)
Guided Independent Study57Reading in preparation for weekly seminars, following reading list recommendations linked to ELE module homepage and independently exploring further sources of information using links provided.
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for writing CA component
Guided Independent Study30Further exploratory research and subsequent reading in preparation for final exam.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Small-group discussions within seminars1-11, 13-14Oral, within plenary sessions

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination603 hoursAllWritten, generic feedback posted on module ELE page
Essay402000 wordsAllWritten, individual feedback on script, generic feedback posted on ELE


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
ExaminationExaminationAllAugust Ref/Def
EssayEssayAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Two assessments are required for this module. Where you have been referred/deferred in the examination you will have the opportunity to take a second examination in the August/September re-assessment period. Where you have been referred/deferred in the essay you will be required to resubmit the essay. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

There is no core text for this course. The following articles provide a good overview of many of the issues discussed in each week:


Babor, T.F., Stenius, K., Romelsjo, A., 2008. Alcohol and drug treatment systems in public health perspective: mediators and moderators of population effects. International Journal of Methods in Psychiatric Research 17, S50-S59.


Balleine, B.W., Ostlund, S.B., 2007. Still at the choice-point: Action selection and initiation in instrumental conditioning, in: Balleine, B.W., Doya, K., Doherty, J.O., Sakagami, M. (Eds.), Reward and decision making in corticobasal ganglia networks. Blackwell Publishing, Malden, pp. 147-171.


Hart, C.L., Marvin, C.B., Silver, R., Smith, E.E., 2012. Is cognitive functioning impaired in methamphetamine users? A Critical Review. Neuropsychopharmacology 37, 586-608.


Hitsman, B., Papandonatos, G.D., McChargue, D.E., DeMott, A., Herrera, M.J., Spring, B., Borrelli, B., Niaura, R., 2013. Past major depression and smoking cessation outcome: a systematic review and meta-analysis update. Addiction 108, 294-306.


Hogarth, L., Balleine, B.W., Corbit, L.H., Killcross, S., 2013. Associative learning mechanisms underpinning the transition from recreational drug use to addiction. Ann. N. Y. Acad. Sci. 1282, 12-24.


Lucantonio, F., Stalnaker, T.A., Shaham, Y., Niv, Y., Schoenbaum, G., 2012. The impact of orbitofrontal dysfunction on cocaine addiction. Nat Neurosci 15, 358-366.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Psychology, addictive behaviour

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date