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Suppose the following idealized experiment:

Setup:

  1. A pill/medication which simply induces pleasure. Perhaps something like a perfect dopamine antagonist with no side-effects. Call it P
  2. A task which is to be trained. Call it T. (Assume that T is not intrinsically pleasurable or unpleasant, and has no unpleasant associations for the subject)

Goal: The subject of the experiment is to be introduced to T in such a way that reinforces the "enjoyment" of T and the desire to again do task T.

Variables: P can be administered any time -- before during or after -- task T.

Question:

  • a. Is there an optimal time to introduce P to facilitate the development of the desire/interest/motivation to do task T?
  • b. Is this even possible if the subject knows that P induces the pleasure?
  • c. Even if pleasure and T are then linked, is it only under the assumption that T leads to pleasure, and thus if P is no longer present, the interest in T will wane?
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closed as too broad by AliceD, Arnon Weinberg, Robin Kramer, Chris Rogers, Seanny123 Feb 20 '17 at 7:53

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it looks like a homework question without signs of prior effort from OP to solve it. $\endgroup$ – AliceD Feb 6 '17 at 6:39
  • $\begingroup$ @AliceD How does one refute your supposition? Are all questions asked by mathematicians -- perhaps with a wording too procedural for your taste -- subject to censorship? I am a researcher in mathematics with personal difficulties in motivation and an interest in the neurochemistry of motivation and TDCS. I'll research the appropriate appeal procedure. $\endgroup$ – Bradford Feb 6 '17 at 6:53
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    $\begingroup$ What you're asking about is called "schedule of reinforcement". If you could show some basic understanding of that in your question, it would seem less home-worky. $\endgroup$ – Seanny123 Feb 6 '17 at 7:27
  • $\begingroup$ It just looked like a 1a, 1b, 1c exam question; it's OK. However, the close vote was also made because there are three separate questions in there; it's better to ask one per post. Further in 1a there is desire, interest and motivation. These are three different aspects altogether that may be affected by dopamine in different ways. In other words, the question is too broad. And lastly, question c is kind of opinion based and also very broad. What task? What pill? What dosage? How long? How frequent? The brain and especially cognition are not easily captured in mathematical equations... $\endgroup$ – AliceD Feb 6 '17 at 10:03
  • $\begingroup$ @Seanny123 Thanks for the feedback and keyword that I should research. $\endgroup$ – Bradford Feb 7 '17 at 6:28
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i will offer an answer to this, because i don't believe this is homework. see next comment below:

Perhaps something like a perfect dopamine antagonist with no side-effects. Call it P

no, let's call it an antipsychotic. perhaps P stands for prochlorperazine. i think you mean dopamine agonist. dopamine antagonists invoke what could best be described as a chemical lobotomy, and are antithetical to any notions of motivation, salience, achievement, or reward.

a. Is there an optimal time to introduce P to facilitate the development of the desire/interest/motivation to do task T?

yes -- immediately once the desired behaviour has been undertaken successfully. with some interesting exceptions e.g. food poisoning, the shorter the latency between any behaviour and its consequences, the stronger the association between the two will become apparent to the individual. think of it as a "theory of causality" -- the shorter the latency, the more confident we become that the behaviour caused the outcome.

this is why the route of administration of a drug has a strong influence upon an individual's susceptibility to addiction, or to put it another way, motivation to consume the drug again. smoked or IV versus oral administration. conversely, it's much harder to engage in behaviours that might be beneficial to us years down the track because we have less confidence that engaging in that behaviour will result in the desired outcome.

b. Is this even possible if the subject knows that P induces the pleasure?

yes. however, if there is no intrinsic motivation to do the task, it will be much harder to facilitate the desired behaviour in the absence of the reinforcer. if you only did something because of the outcome, and not because you found some inherent enjoyment from it, after a while you might start thinking about other behaviours you could engage in to attain the same outcome.

in the case of our fictional substance P: sure, i could keep doing what you want me to in order to obtain it. but in engaging in your task as simply a means to an end, i might start to consider more direct routes to that same end. for example, i could steal the keys to your medicine cabinet. or place a blood-filled syringe to your neck and tell you to hand it over.

c. Even if pleasure and T are then linked, is it only under the assumption that T leads to pleasure, and thus if P is no longer present, the interest in T will wane?

yes. here, new learning takes place: the individual has now constructed a new theory of causality. whereas once upon the individual learned that engaging in T offered access to P, it now no longer does.

i would go so far as to argue that if one was not aware of the presence of P, one's interest in the task would persistent for far longer a period, and perhaps indefinitely. "perhaps i'm not doing the task correctly... i know, it's because i've had a lousy week... " etc, etc. one might even start engaging in superstitious behaviours in the belief that it is this superstitious ritual that influences the likelihood of the reward.

in order to "slow down" this new learning (extinction), it would be important to ensure that the reinforcement of T with P is not 1:1. the more tightly a behaviour is linked to an outcome, good or bad, the more one expects the outcome to occur when they engage in that behaviour. when the outcome is now absent, the more apparent it is that something about the behaviour -> outcome relationship has changed.

to understand how this works, read into the relationship between different reinforcement schedules and rate of extinction. also read into the phenomenon of spontaneous recovery.

now, you will need to excuse: my motivation to continue typing has now waned, and in it's place, a desire to go get high.

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