Dysfunction of central dopaminergic neurotransmission has been implicated in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia as well as drug and alcohol dependence. Different drugs of abuse stimulate dopamine release in the ventral striatum and thus reinforce drug consumption. Increased subcortical dopamine release has also been associated with the pathogenesis of positive symptoms in schizophrenia and may be driven by a prefrontal dopaminergic dysfunction. These seemingly heterogeneous findings may be explained by recent research in non-human primates. According to these studies, reward anticipation but not anticipated reward consumption is accompanied by a phasic dopamine release in the striatum and prefrontal cortex. In the striatum, phasic dopamine release primarily affects motivation, psychomotor activation and reward craving, while in the prefrontal cortex, dopaminergic stimulation is involved in the activation of working memory and reward anticipation. In alcoholism, previously neutral stimuli that have been associated with alcohol intake can become conditioned cues which activate phasic dopamine release and reward craving. In schizophrenia, stress-induced or chaotic activation of dopamine release may attribute incentive salience to otherwise irrelevant stimuli and thus be involved in the pathogenesis of delusional mood and other positive symptoms. Studies in humans and non-human primates emphasize the role of dopaminergic neurotransmission in reward anticipation and its dysfunction in different neuropsychiatric diseases.