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James MacKillop

Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies
Brown University

Evolution, Behavioral Economics, and Addiction

May 9, 2008
Engineering Building 100, 4:00 PM

Abstract

From a distal standpoint, human evolution in environments of finite resources constitutes a powerful selective pressure for faculties that permit effective resource maximization This presumably includes processes for efficiently estimating the value of commodities. Translated into a proximal standpoint, the field of behavioral economics is interested in how individuals value commodities and interact with the world as economic agents. This approach has also been profitably used to understand psychopathological behavior, most notably in terms of addictive behavior. This EvoS seminar will review each of these perspectives, with an emphasis on recent empirical findings from Dr. MacKillop’s laboratory using behavioral economics to understand addictive behavior.

Biography

James MacKillop, PhD, received a B.A. in psychology and philosophy from SUNY Binghamton in 1997. In 1999, he returned to SUNY Binghamton to undertake a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, graduating in 2005 after completing a predoctoral clinical internship at the Brown University Clinical Psychology Training Consortium. As a graduate student, his dissertation research was supported by a predoctoral National Research Service Award from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and teaching opportunities via the EvoS program. He completed an NIAAA postdoctoral fellowship at the Brown University Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies in 2006 and was promoted to the faculty at that time. His research focuses on applying behavioral economics to understand addictive behavior and is funded by grants from NIAAA, the Alcoholic Beverage Medical Research, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Russell Sage Foundation.

Readings

  1. Relative reinforcing efficacy of alcohol among college student drinkers
  2. A behavioral economic measure of demand for alcohol predicts brief intervention outcomes
  3. Further validation of a cigarette purchase task for assessing the relative reinforcing efficacy of nicotine in college smokers

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