Individual variation in resisting temptation: implications for addiction

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2013 Nov;37(9 Pt A):1955-75. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.02.008. Epub 2013 Feb 21.


When exposed to the sights, sounds, smells and/or places that have been associated with rewards, such as food or drugs, some individuals have difficulty resisting the temptation to seek out and consume them. Others have less difficulty restraining themselves. Thus, Pavlovian reward cues may motivate maladaptive patterns of behavior to a greater extent in some individuals than in others. We are just beginning to understand the factors underlying individual differences in the extent to which reward cues acquire powerful motivational properties, and therefore, the ability to act as incentive stimuli. Here we review converging evidence from studies in both human and non-human animals suggesting that a subset of individuals are more "cue reactive", in that certain reward cues are more likely to attract these individuals to them and motivate actions to get them. We suggest that those individuals for whom Pavlovian reward cues become especially powerful incentives may be more vulnerable to impulse control disorders, such as binge eating and addiction.

Keywords: Accumbens; Binge eating; Dopamine; Goal-tracking; Human; Individual differences; Learning; Motivation; Obesity; Pavlovian; Rat; Relapse; Sign-tracking.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Behavior, Addictive / physiopathology*
  • Cues
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Motivation / physiology*
  • Reward*