Scientific research continues to reach conclusions that fly in the face of long-held myths about the use of cannabis, like it lowers your IQ or makes you less likely to exercise. Now, researchers say cannabis use does not lessen motivation – in fact, it actually may boost it.
Researchers reached that conclusion after a study done with 47 college students and testing whether cannabis users or non-users were more likely to engage in effort-related decision making tasks.
The new study, which has findings consistent with past studies on weed’s impact on motivation, directly addresses the issue of amotivational syndrome hypothesis. Or, to put in layman’s terms, the idea of the couch potato, lazy stoner.
Research Tests Viability of Lazy Stoner Hypothesis
In the study, published by the American Psychological Association, researchers tested what is known as the “amotivational syndrome” hypothesis, which argues that cannabis use leads to apathy and an impaired capacity for goal-directed behavior.
The existence of this syndrome is a subject of controversy because studies have not reached a definitive answer. The researchers in the new study wrote that past studies failed to account for other variables that might influence a cannabis user’s behavior.
The new study accounts for these variables, and found that cannabis users, given a choice, picked tasks that required higher levels of motivation to accomplish than did those who did not use cannabis.
How Do You Test For Motivation?
The study results beg the question: “How do you study the motivation of cannabis users”? In the case of the recent study, researchers used the Effort Expenditure for Rewards Task on college students. The task measures a person’s likelihood of choosing a high-effort trial for a reward.
Under most circumstances, reward magnitude, reward probability and the expected value predict greater likelihood of selecting a high-effort trial. That makes perfect sense: The better the reward, the harder people are willing to work.
The university researchers found that past-month cannabis use predicted the likelihood of choosing a high-effort trial, even after researchers controlled the study for other potentially influencing conditions such as Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) symptoms and distress tolerance.
“The results provide preliminary evidence suggesting that college students who use cannabis are more likely to expend effort to obtain reward, even after controlling for the magnitude of the reward and the probability of reward receipt,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, these results do not support the amotivational syndrome hypothesis.”
The researchers called for more research using a larger sample size of patients “to evaluate possible associations between cannabis use and patterns of real-world effortful behavior over time.”