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Addiction and ChoiceRethinking the relationship$
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Nick Heather and Gabriel Segal

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198727224

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198727224.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 October 2021

Palpating the elephant

Palpating the elephant

Current theories of addiction in light of hyperbolic delay discounting

(p.227) Chapter 13 Palpating the elephant
Addiction and Choice

George Ainslie

Oxford University Press

Addiction appears to contradict expected utility theory and has therefore been the subject of many re-examinations of motivation. It is variously said to arise from and/or be maintained by conditioning, habit learning (as distinct from the goal-directed kind), the elicitation of counterfeit reward in the midbrain, accelerated delay discounting, hyperbolic delay discounting, and unspecified sorts of disease or compulsion that imply addiction is not motivated at all. Each of these models has some roots in observation but each has problems, particularly in accounting for addictions that do not need a neurophysiologically active agent, such as gambling or videogames. An implication of hyperbolic delay discounting—recursive self-prediction—adds necessary mechanisms for addiction within a motivational framework. An addict’s “force of habit” may be motivated by what amounts to accumulated consumption capital within an endogenous reward process. In a recursive motivational model the addict’s impaired responsibility is more like bankruptcy than disease.

Keywords:   expected utility theory, habit learning, hyperbolic delay discounting, responsibility, recursive self-prediction

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