Reinforcing Effects Of Drugpaired Stimuli

Thus far, the focus has been on the effects of environmental stimuli paired with the administration of a drug rather than on stimuli paired with a drug as a reinforcer. As has been frequently demonstrated, and as is true of many stimuli, drugs can have multiple functions. These include discriminative effects, which set the occasion for certain responses to occur, and they also include reinforcing effects, whereby a response is increased in probability when a reinforcing drug follows the occurrence of that response. Drug self-administration techniques have been very informative and useful in the study of the effects of abused drugs.

One additional experimental procedure that has been used in this field of research is that of repeatedly pairing a rather brief visual or auditory stimulus (e.g., a light or a tone, respectively) with the reinforcing administration of the drug and then using that stimulus also as a reinforcer to maintain behavior without drug administration. Perhaps the most compelling work in this area stems from a procedure in which a stimulus was presented according to a schedule to follow a particular response. On certain occasions, that stimulus also was associated with the administration of a drug— that is, the stimulus occurred at various times without the drug and then also just preceding the drug. Known technically as a ''second-order schedule,'' this technique exerts powerful control over the occurrence and patterning of behavior, and it results in sustained responding for extended time periods in the absence of anything but the stimuli that have been paired with the administration of the drug itself (Katz & Goldberg, 1991). In other words, conditioned stimuli that have been paired with a drug can exert considerable control over behavior.

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