Health and addictive behaviours

The module will explore the concept of agency and goal-seeking behaviour; the notion of automaticity and habitual action; and the definition, causes and consequences of addiction. It explores how psychology allows us an understanding of the mechanisms behind the choices we make, including situations such as addiction, where people seem to have a reduced ability to choose.

Main topics include:

  • The cognitive approach to understanding agency, addiction and resilience, including, the construction of preference, the formation of habits, and the role of cognitive distortions in gambling addiction;
  • Biological accounts of addiction and the psychopharmacology of common drugs of abuse;
  • Environmental, social and developmental influences upon choice, including obedience and social conformity and the risk factors for addiction, and the social constructs of mental capacity and responsibility.

If you complete the course successfully, you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the key theories and evidence regarding addiction, habit formation and choice, and how these are investigated in psychological science.
  • Critically evaluate the evidence regarding the risk factors for development of, or resilience to, addictive disorders, and treatment strategies for addiction.
  • Understand the definition of automaticity in behaviour, and theories regarding the formation of habits and goal-directed action.
  • Understand how the constraints associated with attention, memory and reasoning influence decisions; and understand the role of distorted cognition in maintaining addictions, including gambling.
  • Understand the influence of the environment (e.g., choice architecture) upon choice and action.
  • Understand the role that social factors, including peer opinion and behaviour, play in influencing choice behaviour.
  • Understand, and provide a critical evaluation of, the explanations these theories offer, and the types of evidence that support and challenge them.
  • Communicate their understanding and application of their knowledge effectively in the form of concise and focused essays and reports.

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