|Abstract: Over 50 years of research in behavioral pharmacology has provided unequivocal evidence that variables such as the environmental context, behavioral history, schedule of reinforcement, type of reinforcer, level of deprivation, and baseline response rate are powerful determinants of the behavioral effects of a variety of drugs. It has been suggested that such effects might profitably be viewed within a general conceptual framework referred to as “behavioral mechanisms” of drug action. In this tutorial, the concept of behavioral mechanisms of drug action is presented and discussed, several approaches to identifying behavioral mechanisms are reviewed, and the theoretical and applied implications of the concept are considered. It is argued that the promise of this approach has yet to be fully realized, and that this has been due, in part, to the fact that there does not appear to be an agreed upon set of operations and criteria by which a specific behavioral mechanism of a given drug effect might be identified unequivocally. It is suggested, however, that advances in the quantitative analyses of behavior may provide a set of tools that will allow us to elucidate behavior mechanisms of drug action clearly.
Raymond C. Pitts received his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Florida in 1989. After a 2-year post-doctoral fellowship in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology at the Wake Forest Medical School, he took a job as a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. In 1996, he moved to the Department of Psychology at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and has been there ever since. He achieved his current rank of Professor in 2005. Dr. Pitts has served on the Editorial Boards of the Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior and The Behavior Analyst, and routinely reviews for a variety of other journals, including Behavioural Processes and Psychopharmacology. His work has been supported by grants from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and has been published in journals such as Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Psychopharmacology, Behavioural Pharmacology, Behavioral Neuroscience, Behavioural Processes, and Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.|