The power of situational cues

Preventing cravings is one of the biggest challenges in the treatment of addiction, because they often cause ex-addicts to relapse into drug use (Kober and Mell, 2015). For instance, the loss of control over craving is a main culprit for relapse following abstinence among smokers and alcohol drinkers. Cue exposure and the experience of craving significantly influence and contribute to eating behavior and weight gain. Thus, the ability to manage craving is of key importance in preventing drug use and overeating.

Darlene-Lancer1Dr. ShahramHeshmat is an associate professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Springfield with a Ph.D. in Managerial Economics from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He specializes in the Health Economics of addiction and obesity, applying the insights and findings that emerge from behavioral economics research to the decision processes underlying addictive behavior, obesity, and weight loss management. His most recent book is Eating Behavior and Obesity: Behavioral Economics Strategies for Health Professionals. He is currently working on a new book, Addiction: A Behavioral Economics Perspective.

Editor: Nadeem Pasha

A key lesson of behavioral economics is the power of the situation that influences behavior and overrides individuals’ intentions (MacKillop, et al., 2010). Temptations are triggered by situational cues (stimuli) that promise immediate satisfaction at the cost of significant long-term rewards. The inability to resist internal impulse leads to a mistaken decision – a gap between actual choice and preference (Laibson, 2001). That is, a person makes a choice despite expressing a desire to avoid this very option on a prior occasion. People are well aware that they are under the influence of the craving, but that knowledge will do little to curb their drive.


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