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date: 10 April 2021

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an introduction to, and overview of, substance use expectancy theory, which offers one framework to explain why individuals approach and engage in substance use behaviors. We begin with an overview of basic behavioral science models of expectancy, noting that the capacity to anticipate outcomes of behaviors, and hence choose to engage in behaviors from which one expects benefits or rewards, is central to adaptive functioning. We note the importance of the insight that this anticipation/expectancy principle can be applied to substance use. We then review models of the development of learned anticipations or expectancies of reward from substance use and consider factors that influence substance use expectancy development. We observe that longitudinal data, documenting expectancies’ prediction of subsequent addictive behaviors, and experimental data, documenting reductions in both drinking and eating disorder symptoms following expectancy reduction, speak to the functional role of expectancies in addictive behaviors.

Keywords: expectancy, learning, risk, adolescence, alcohol, smoking, disordered eating

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