Schedules of reinforcement offer several advantages for studying the behavioral effects of drugs. First, schedule-controlled responding is very consistent and remains unchanged for long periods of time. This consistency makes it easy to examine changes in behavior after a drug is given. Second, schedule-controlled behavior can be used with human subjects as well as with several different animal species, including mice, rats, pigeons, and monkeys. Finally, schedule-controlled behavior is recorded with automatic devices so that the experimenter is completely removed from the experiment and the nature of the behavior is easy to measure. From these studies, several important concepts have emerged. Scientists have shown that the behavioral effects of drugs depend not only on the amount of drug given, but they also depend on the nature of the behavior being examined. Both the rate of occurrence of a behavior as well as the presence of punishing stimuli are very important determinants of how drugs alter behavior.

The Psychomotor Stimulants increase responding under schedules of reinforcement when responding occurs at a low rate; when responding occurs at higher rates, the psychomotor stimulants decrease rates of responding. The most notable effect of morphine is that it decreases overall rates of responding. Alcohol and the antianxiety agents are unique in that they increase responding that is suppressed by the presentation of a punishing stimulus. Finally, several drugs interfere with the learning of complex patterns of responding.

(See also: Adjunctive Drug Taking; Behavioral Tolerance; Memory and Drugs: State Dependent Learning; Memory, Effects of Drugs on; Reinforcement; Tolerance and Physical Dependence)


Carlton, P. L. (1983). A primer of behavioral pharmacology. New York: W. H. Freeman.

McKim, W. A. (1986). Drugs and behavior. Englewood

Cliffs. NJ: Prentice-Hall. Seiden, L. S., & Dykstra, L. A. (1977). Psychopharma-cology: A biochemical and behavioral approach. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold.

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How To Win Your War Against Anxiety Disorders

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