Behavioral Consequences

The specific manner in which behavior is controlled by its consequences may often represent a strong influence on drug action. In research situations, this is apparent in the effects of AMPHETAMINE or COCAINE on punished and nonpunished responses maintained by the presentation of food. Low rates of nonpunished responses are typically increased by these drugs (PSYCHOMOTOR STIMULANTS), whereas comparable low rates on punished responses are not affected by these drugs or are only decreased further. In the Dews studies (1955, 1958), the effects of the drugs differed depending on whether behavior was maintained at relatively high response rates under a fixed-ratio schedule that provided food following every nth response or whether responses occurred at lower rates under a fixed-interval schedule that provided food for the first response after t minutes. Explanations of the differential effects of the drugs could not be based on different levels of motivation, since these schedule conditions alternated sequentially within the same experimental session. Although these and similar results were obtained under carefully controlled experimental conditions, such findings document the essential point that environmental conditions surrounding and/or supporting behavior play a very important role in determining the effects of drugs.

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