[ExI] addiction

Henry Rivera hrivera at alumni.virginia.edu
Sat Apr 9 01:41:48 UTC 2022

*William Flynn Wallace said: *

*Did you notice that Henry did not respond to my invitation to define the
term noncircularly, to invent a word.  And he wrote a dissertation on it.
???  What's up with that? *

Relax, I’m just busy working more than full-time with 2 kids, an active
social life, and many extracurricular activities.

*William Flynn Wallace said: *

*As for willpower, that is a circular concept:  if a person can do
something or stop something, we say he has willpower.  If he doesn't we say
he has little will power.  Totally circular.  If you are suggesting that
willpower can be measured some other, valid, way, and that can be traced to
brain changes, then we have a different discussion.  bill w*

*Henry, is willpower not circular?  *

I don’t know if I can define it noncircularly. Oxford says “control exerted
to do something or restrain impulses.” Willpower is hard to measure.
Granted. And not  mapped to a specific set of neurons. Nevertheless, in
cognitive science models, the data support a place for it or something like
it, call it what you want.

Here’s a generous amount of quotes from my dissertation which was entitled
Cognitive Science, Autoregulation, and Psychotherapy: Advancing Dialectical
Behavior Therapy. It may read as disjointed between some paragraphs as
these were pulled from various places in the 108 page document.


One aspect of the self has been labeled the *executive function or control*
by theorists from a variety of fields. This aspect of the self controls
volition, which includes choosing, deciding, initiating action, and
self-regulation (Baumeister, 2000). The allocation of attention and
executive control is at the center of current understanding of how
information is selected by agents from the environment. In current theories
of human cognition, executive control is associated with limited-capacity
attention-demanding mental processing (Remington, 2000). Common cognitive
acts such as retrieving items from memory, reading, and problem-solving
require executive control, in contrast to perceptual processes and motor
behaviors whose processing is independent of executive control and is
sometimes automatic.

In North America in the late 19th century, William James devised a theory
of will or voluntary action. His theory held that of many possible choices
an agent has, the one that is chosen is the one that has been attended to
more than others. James added that choice or will expends energy through
the process of holding the idea attended to in consciousness while
inhibiting other ideas. Thus James concluded that volition occurs by
attending to those ideas that assist one in achieving one’s goal (which
incidentally expends energy) (Hergenhahn, 1997).

Research and theory on self-regulation frequently involve cognitive models
which hypothesize an architecture or structure that can describe key
processes and the flow of information between them. One shortcoming of such
inquiry is that researchers cannot assess these knowledge structures
directly. Thus researchers must infer processing structures based on
behavior and verbal report. These conceptualizations of mental activity
occur at the metacognitive level of understanding, if they occur at all, in
individuals. Metacogntion is one’s appraisal of one’s own cognitive
processes including beliefs about self-control of cognition (Matthews et
al., 2000). Self-regulation may be viewed as comprising metacognitive
knowledge and skills, as well as motivational, emotional, and behavioral
monitoring and control processes (Demetriou, 2000).

There is support for the notion that specific areas of the brain are
allocated for self-regulation. That is, the brain appears to be
functionally designed to self-regulate. Specifically, the frontal lobes are
hypothesized to be responsible for executive control of novel responses and
self-awareness (Stuss, 1992; Thatcher, 1994) which in turn influence
self-regulation (Case, 1992). Additionally, the nucleus ambiguus of the
medulla has been found to be particularly relevant to children’s ability to
regulate emotional arousal, respond to stress, and focus attention
(Bornstein & Suess; Porges, Doussard-Roosevelt, Portales, & Greenspan;
Stifter & Fox all as cited in Blair, 2002). Other researchers have found,
through neuroanatomical examination of neural pathways, anatomical evidence
for functional links between prefrontal executive processes and limbic
emotional-motivational aspects of functioning (Derryberry & Tucker; LeDoux
both as cited in Blair, 2002). Research in this area is ongoing and
currently relies heavily on deficit studies. For example, a novel research
area in psychology, social cognitive neuroscience, currently is examining
social behavior from the perspective of the brain using brain-imaging
techniques and studies of people with brain injuries. While having
localized functions of the brain is an appealing concept, a complete
understanding of the brain will also be able to account for holistic
integration of certain operations. Such a model has yet to be proposed.

There can be multiple factors that affect a failure in self-regulation.
Consider alcohol consumption, which reduces self-awareness or monitoring
ability (Hull, 1981) which then results in an inability to grasp the
implications of current actions for the future (Baumeister, 1991).
Additionally, the more one drinks, the harder it becomes to monitor how
much one is drinking. When one is aware of standards and is monitoring
one’s behavior in relation to those standards, yet the person still feels
unable to behave in accord with those standards, the person can be
understood as lacking sufficient strength or willpower to autoregulate
(Baumeister, Heatherton, & Tice, 1994). Poor self-efficacy can also affect
one’s belief that one can successfully cope or recover after a lapse or
relapse in self-regulation (Marlatt, Baer, & Quigley, 1995).

Inadequate strength can be chronic, temporary, or the result of an
overpowering response. Chronic weakness of will could be considered a
character trait that exists as a natural variation among people. Temporary
weakness of will would exist as a function of fatigue or stress and would
represent abnormal functioning relative to a person’s average abilities
when not fatigued or under stress. When one’s willpower is overridden by an
overpowering demand or response, a person has no choice but to succumb. An
example of this mechanism in action is a person falling asleep against
their will. Such mechanisms probably also play a role in someone who is
substance dependent who fails to self-regulate.

*The Limited-Resource Model*

Current research in the area of self-regulation frequently cites the
social-cognitive model suggested by Baumeister and Heatherton (1996), which
emphasizes goals, plans, and personal beliefs over situational
contingencies and reinforcers, physiological processes, and unconscious
psychodynamic motives (Heatherton & Baumeister, 1996). In their model,
under-regulation occurs because of deficient standards, inadequate
monitoring, or inadequate strength. Strength, here, is akin to willpower.
Misregulation occurs because of false assumptions or misdirected efforts
and an unwarranted emphasis on emotion. Baumeister and Heatherton propose
that the evidence supports a strength (limited resource) model of
autoregulation and suggest that people often give in when losing control.
The basic understanding of the model is that there is a finite reservoir of
energy that powers volitional and other executive control functions at an
individual level. As a result of using this reservoir, self-regulation
becomes increasingly difficult for the individual, over a short period of

*Testing the Limited Resource Model*

Control or volition is involved in specific, crucial mental functions like
making choices, taking responsibility, initiating and inhibiting behavior,
as well as making plans of action and carrying out those plans (Baumeister,
Bratslavsky, Muraven, & Tice, 1998). The view that acts of volition draw on
a limited resource is widely labeled the limited resource model of
self-regulation. However, it has been named the ego depletion model by
Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, and Tice (1998). (Interestingly, Freud’s
conception of the mind, an ego that required energy to resist the id and
superego (1923/1961a, 1933/1961b), used a similar conceptualization.) This
model implies that, as a result of using this limited resource, one act of
volition will have a detrimental impact on subsequent acts of volition.
Baumeister’s theoretical model views the self’s executive function like a
muscle that can become tired after some exertion. In his quest to
understand the mechanisms through which self-regulatory change is achieved,
he has stumbled upon the remarkable finding that many of the self’s
executive functions operate using the same energy source.

In a series of experiments, Baumeister and colleagues found that a second
act of self-control was impaired following an initial act of self-control
(Muraven, Tice, & Baumeister, 1998). That is, consecutive yet apparently
unrelated acts of self-control were carried out by participants, and after
the second act, participants showed signs of impairment. A brief synopsis
of the series of experiments follows.

First, participants were asked to regulate their feelings and facial
expressions while watching a sad film clip. Following this task,
participants’ physical stamina was measured with a handgrip endurance task.
The task called for participants to override muscular pain and fatigue in
the hand by persisting at squeezing a grip. It was found that participants’
physical stamina decreased after the movie task compared to a control group
who watched the film clip without attempting to amplify or stifle their
emotions and facial expressions, whose stamina did not change when measured
before and after watching the clip (Muraven, Tice, & Baumeister, 1998).

Next, thought control was measured with the white bear suppression task
borrowed from Wegner, Schneider, Carter, and White (1987). This task simply
involves asking participants to try not to think about a white bear while
researchers measure and record their thoughts, which participants are asked
to verbalize in stream of consciousness form. After doing this for several
minutes, the participants were given anagrams to solve. Unknown to
participants, the anagrams were unsolvable, and the task was thus a
measurement of persistence at a frustrating task. Compared to participants
who were asked to list their thoughts and participants who heard mention of
a white bear but were not asked to control their thoughts, participants who
had been given the thought suppression task gave up sooner on the anagram
task. Thus, it is hypothesized, using cognitive resources to suppress
thoughts made it more difficult to subsequently persist at a seemingly
unrelated task.

In the third part of this series of experiments, attempted thought
regulation with the white bear task impaired participants’ subsequent
ability to regulate how much they smiled and laughed while watching a
comedy video during which they were instructed to suppress all displays of

A later experiment by Baumeister, Bratslavsky, Muraven, and Tice (1998)
continued the exploration of the limited resource approach by focusing on
impulse control. Participants, who were asked to not eat for three hours
prior to arriving for the experiment, were placed in a room filled with the
aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies and seated in front of a
table filled with these cookies, other chocolate candies, and a bowl of
radishes. One group was told that they would only be eating the radishes,
and another was told that they could eat the cookies and candies. In both
groups, participants were left alone in the room for five minutes, where
they presumably struggled with the temptation to eat the cookies and
candies. After the five minutes, the food was cleared away and participants
were asked to work at some geometric figure-tracing puzzles. Again, the
puzzles were actually unsolvable to test persistence at a frustrating task.
This task to measure frustration tolerance and regulatory persistence was
adapted from Glass and Singer (1972) and Feather (1961).

Participants who were told they could eat only radishes (while resisting
the temptation to eat appetizing foods) gave up faster on the unsolvable
puzzles than did a group who could eat the chocolate and cookies and a
group that was given no food at all. This series of experiments together
suggests that the same resource was used by the executive function for
suppressing thoughts, regulating emotions, physical stamina, persistence
when frustrated, and resisting temptation/impulse control. Furthermore,
this resource was found to be surprisingly limited: Five minutes of
resisting temptation to eat chocolate and cookies and instead forcing
oneself to eat radishes was enough to reduce persistence at unsolvable
puzzles by more than half (10 minutes).

Subsequently, Muraven (1998b), as cited in Baumeister (2000), carried out
this experiment with children. He modified the experiment by changing the
temptation to an attractive toy and the persistence/frustration task to
drawing a line slowly. The result was a similar effect as found in adults,
namely, that compared to children allowed to play with the attractive toy,
children resisting that temptation were poorer at the
persistence/frustration task.

After this intriguing series of experiments, Baumeister set out to explore
what other aspects of self-control used this same limited resource. Using a
cognitive dissonance procedure from Linder, Cooper, and Jones (1967) to
draw upon an act of choice, Baumeister et al. (1998) asked participants in
a high-choice condition to make a speech in favor of a tuition increase,
which was contrary to the attitudes of the participants, if they so
desired. The participants in this high-choice condition were told that
their compliance would be appreciated but that the ultimate decision was
theirs. In contrast, participants in a low-choice condition were told to
make the same speech in favor of tuition increase but were given no choice
as to their compliance.

Following the speech, participants were given unsolvable geometric puzzles
to measure persistence. One control group received only the puzzles and did
not have to make a speech. Compared to participants who did not make a
speech and those who made the speech in the low-choice condition,
participants in the high-choice condition gave up on the unsolvable puzzles
significantly faster. To assess whether this difference was a result of a
counter-attitudinal choice rather than a choice concordant with one’s
attitudes, a fourth group was asked to make a speech in favor of minimizing
tuition increases if they so desired (under high choice). Persistence in
this group was similar to the other high-choice group--they gave up on the
unsolvable puzzles significantly faster than the other groups. This leads
to the inference that the act of choice itself depletes the resource rather
than the consonance or dissonance with the opinion one endorses.

The idea that making choices depletes the same resource involved in other
acts of self-regulation was additionally supported by Baumeister, Twenge,
and Tice (1998) as cited in Baumeister (2000). Participants, believing they
were participating in market research were instructed to make many choices
among products and told that they should choose products appealing to them
as they would receive one of the products at the end of the exercise. A
control group was only instructed to rate the products, not choose amongst
them. A second task for all participants was to drink an aversive mix of
unsweetened Kool-Aid mixed half with water and half with vinegar.
Participants were given the incentive of payment of five cents per ounce
and asked to consume as much as they could. It was understood that because
the drink tasted bad participants would have had to exert self-control to
consume very much. Again, it appeared that making a choice depleted the
resource such that participants in the choice group drank significantly
fewer ounces than participants in the rate-only group.

To look at how initiative was affected by depleting this limited resource,
Baumeister et al. (1998) conducted a second part to the cognitive
dissonance experiment. First, participants were given a task that
encouraged the formation of a habit and the subsequent overriding of that
habit. Specifically, they were told to cross out every instance of the
letter ‘e’ in a page of text, followed by crossing out every instance of
the letter ‘e’ on another page of text unless the ‘e’ was next to or two
letters away from another vowel. A control group had to complete 3-digit
arithmetic problems. Next, participants had to watch a movie (an unchanging
image of a laboratory wall) as long as necessary until they felt they had
fully grasped it. To measure passivity, the researchers borrowed the
following procedure from Allison and Messick (1988) as cited in Baumeister,
Muraven and Tice (2000). Half the participants were instructed to hold a
button down to keep the movie going while half were told that the movie
would continue until they took the initiative to press the button. Results
showed that participants were more passive in their initiative to stop the
film if they completed the ‘e’ task compared to doing the math problems.
Participants in the resource-depleted group watched the boring movie
longer. Thus depleting the limited resource appears to affect
initiative/volition as well as self-control and choice.

Next, Muraven and Collins (1999), as cited in Baumeister (2000), applied
this line of research to adult male social drinkers. Half of the
participants were instructed to suppress thoughts about a white bear, and
half did not go through any initial depletion task. Next all participants
were primed for a driving simulation task for which there would be a prize
for good performance. However, before doing the driving simulation,
participants were offered an opportunity to drink beer. Muraven and Collins
were speculating that participants would be sufficiently motivated to not
drink the beer or to limit their drinking because of the prize offered for
good performance on the driving simulation task. They found that
participants who engaged in the thought suppression task were less able to
regulate their drinking as they consumed more and become more impaired than
the other group.

The dependent variable in many of these studies was persistence at
unsolvable puzzles, and it can be argued that effective self-regulation
entails ceasing effort (disengagement) from the unsolvable to conserve
resources because persistence will not lead to success. This interpretation
however is unlikely since there were no self-reports that indicated that
any participants recognized that the puzzles were unsolvable. Nevertheless,
Baumeister et al. (1998) conducted a third part to their experiment to
solidify their interpretation whereby persistence at solvable anagrams was
measured. The anagram problems did require effort and overriding although
solvable and thus could be viewed as a self-regulation (persistence)
measure. Baumeister et al. found that depleting the limited resource prior
to working at the solvable anagrams did impair persistence. This,
unfortunately, did not clarify the issue of conservation versus depletion,
as one interpretation of this finding is that participants were trying to
conserve their limited resource by stopping rather than just being unable
to exert any self-regulation after the first act of depletion. That is,
there may be conservation at work rather than exhaustion based on the third
part of the experiment (Baumeister, 2000).

To date, few reliable instruments exist to measure the construct of
autoregulation, and I know of no validated instruments claiming to measure
autoregulatory resource depletion as this area is just developing.
Nevertheless, instruments that attempt to measure aspects of autoregulation
exist. Schwarzer, Manfred, and Schmitz (1999), for example, have developed
a scale of “post-intentional self-regulation” whose items are designed to
reflect attention-regulation and emotion-regulation. Sample items include,
“I can concentrate on one activity for a long time, if necessary,” and
“When I worry about something, I cannot concentrate on an activity.”
(Interested readers can find Schwarzer’s scale on-line.) Development of
such instruments will be necessary to improve treatment protocols affected
by autoregulation depletion. Integration of cognitive science's
resource-capacity research findings into the standards of clinical
psychology, might significantly improve client care.

On Fri, Apr 8, 2022 at 7:27 PM William Flynn Wallace via extropy-chat <
extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:

> Will someone tell me what I am wrong about?  It does not take a high
> school degree, much less being a neuroscientist or physician or addiction
> treatment specialist to understand circularity, and until someone comes up
> with a noncircular definition of willpower (which would not make me wrong)
> I rest my case.  Neither of you is a psychologist, I might add.
> bill w
> On Fri, Apr 8, 2022 at 3:40 PM Rafal Smigrodzki via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> On Fri, Apr 8, 2022 at 2:30 PM Will Steinberg via extropy-chat <
>> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>>> What an overly simplified view of the brain, as if parts of the brain
>>> don't send signals to other parts.
>>> Why is it so hard to admit you are wrong?  You are wrong.  The science
>>> is the opposite of what you say.  You are not a neuroscientist, are you?
>>> An addiction researcher?  Is there any reason your intuition and personal
>>> single anecdote would possibly be something I would consider true over
>>> literal thousands of pieces of vetted scientific research?
>>> Blows my mind.  Not sure how you are usually into science but not for
>>> this one thing.
>> ### I agree with you, Will.
>> I also think it is useful to look at the problem from a practical,
>> problem-solving point of view. The most important characteristic of
>> addiction is that it is a behavior that the addict continues despite
>> knowing that it has significant deleterious effects on his life. One could
>> quibble about what is "deleterious" but in practical terms addiction is the
>> kind of behavior that just doesn't stop easily despite significant cost. If
>> it stops after a stern talking-to, it's definitely not an addiction. If it
>> continues after losing your job, money, spouse, after a jail time, being
>> beaten up and going through rehab, yes, might be an addiction. Researchers
>> will look at the neurological correlates of the behaviors but us practical
>> people mostly ask "How do I fix the problem?"
>> People with a moralistic bent may talk about blame, guilt, shame,
>> weakness, lack of willpower, etc. but again, what counts is the practical
>> outcome - Is he still doing after whatever intervention you tried? Did he
>> stop after the priest chewed him out? Did he get better with the help of
>> suboxone or methadone? Did CBT help?
>> What counts is how many people avoided being homeless and overdosing in
>> an alley or getting lung cancer, whether by pulling themselves up by their
>> own moral bootstraps or by mere nicotine patch.
>> Rafal
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