The Subjective Value of Social Context in People Who Use Cannabis

Thomas P. Shellenberg, Justin C. Strickland, Cecilia L. Bergeria, Sean D. Regnier, William W. Stoops, Joshua A. Lile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Disordered cannabis use is linked to social problems, which could be explained by a subjective devaluation of nondrug social contexts and/or an overvaluation of cannabis-paired options relative to nondrug alternatives. To examine these hypotheses, measures to assess the subjective value of social- and/or cannabis-paired contexts were collected in people who use cannabis (n = 85) and controls (n = 98) using crowdsourcing methods. Measures included a cued concurrent choice task that presented two images (cannabis, social, social cannabis, and neutral images) paired with monetary options, hypothetical purchase tasks that included access to social parties with and without a cannabis “open bar,” and the Social Anhedonia Scale (SAS). Little evidence was found to suggest that the cannabis group undervalued social contexts. People who used cannabis demonstrated a preference for social- versus neutral-cued options, and no preference for cannabis- versus social cannabis-cued options on the choice task. In addition, social party demand and SAS scores did not differ between groups. In contrast, we observed evidence for an overvaluation of cannabis context in people who use cannabis, including preference for social cannabisversus social-cued options, and more disadvantageous choices for cannabis-cued options on the choice task, as well as more intense and inelastic demand for the social cannabis party compared to the social party. These results suggest that social problems associated with cannabis use could be at least partially explained by an overvaluation of cannabis-paired options, rather than devaluation of nondrug social-paired options, in the value calculations underlying drug use decisions.

Original languageEnglish
JournalExperimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 American Psychological Association


  • behavioral economic demand
  • cannabis use disorder
  • concurrent reinforcer choice
  • value-based decision making

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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