Smoking and the bandit: a preliminary study of smoker and nonsmoker differences in exploratory behavior measured with a multiarmed bandit task.
Advantageous decision-making is an adaptive trade-off between exploring alternatives and exploiting the most rewarding option. This trade-off may be related to maladaptive decision-making associated with nicotine dependence; however, explore/exploit behavior has not been previously investigated in the context of addiction. The explore/exploit trade-off is captured by the multiarmed bandit task, in which different arms of a slot machine are chosen to discover the relative payoffs. The goal of this study was to preliminarily investigate whether smokers differ from nonsmokers in their degree of exploratory behavior. Smokers (n = 18) and nonsmokers (n = 17) completed a 6-armed bandit task as well as self-report measures of behavior and personality traits. Smokers were found to exhibit less exploratory behavior (i.e., made fewer switches between slot machine arms) than nonsmokers within the first 300 trials of the bandit task. The overall proportion of exploratory choices negatively correlated with self-reported measures of delay aversion and nonplanning impulsivity. These preliminary results suggest that smokers make fewer initial exploratory choices on the bandit task. The bandit task is a promising measure that could provide valuable insights into how nicotine use and dependence is associated with explore/exploit decision-making.
Addicott, MA; Pearson, JM; Wilson, J; Platt, ML; McClernon, FJ
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