The role of drug expectancy in the control of human drug seeking

J Exp Psychol Anim Behav Process. 2007 Oct;33(4):484-96. doi: 10.1037/0097-7403.33.4.484.


Human drug seeking may be goal directed in the sense that it is mediated by a mental representation of the drug or habitual in the sense that it is elicited by drug-paired cues directly. To test these 2 accounts, the authors assessed whether a drug-paired stimulus (S+) would transfer control to an independently trained drug-seeking response. Smokers were trained on an instrumental discrimination that established a tobacco S+ in Experiment 1 and a tobacco and a money S+ in Experiment 2 that elicited an expectancy of their respective outcomes. Participants then learned 2 new instrumental responses, 1 for each outcome, in the absence of these stimuli. Finally, in the transfer test, each S+ was found to augment performance of the new instrumental response that was trained with the same outcome. This outcome-specific transfer effect indicates that drug-paired stimuli controlled human drug seeking via a representation or expectation of the drug rather than through a direct stimulus-response association.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Association Learning*
  • Attention
  • Awareness
  • Conditioning, Operant*
  • Cues*
  • Discrimination Learning*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual
  • Probability Learning
  • Reaction Time
  • Reinforcement Schedule
  • Serial Learning
  • Set, Psychology*
  • Smoking / psychology*
  • Transfer, Psychology