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Associative Learning Processes. According to Bradizza and Stasiewkz (2009) the processes of addiction modelled from classical and operant conditioning possess the greatest empirical evidence supporting its theories. Both operant and classical conditioning are known to be associative learning processes because they connect consistent relationships within the environment and acquire knowledge from these.
Classical conditioning. Cooper, Heron, and Heward (2007) explain that classical conditioning involves the pairing of a neutral stimulus with an unconditioned stimulus that produces an unconditioned response. After learning has occurred the individual begins to associate the neutral stimulus with the unconditioned stimulus, with the result that the neutral stimulus can evoke a conditioned response. The neutral stimulus is then said to have become a conditioned stimulus (Cooper et al., 2007; Littel & Franken, 2012). Therefore, within the classical conditioning model, features of places, people or things come to be associated with the effects of alcohol and drugs, and these then come to stimulate a conditioned response (Franken, 2003; Lowman et al., 2000). Conditioned responses have been thought to be either appetitive (mimicking the substance) or compensatory (withdrawal-like opposing the effects of the substance) (Field & Cox, 2008). For example, a director of a company begins a ritual of ending his working day by closing his office door, pouring himself a gin and sitting on his couch to unwind. After doing this for some time, he begins to associate sitting on that couch in his office with the relaxed feelings the gin produces. However, merely sitting on the couch does not make him feel relaxed. Rather, it makes him feel tense and agitated, and so feels the need to become relaxed. In the natural world both classical conditioning and operant conditioning can work together in the process of addiction (Bradizza & Stasiewkz, 2009).