It has been suggested that liking for the taste, flavour and aroma of, for example, coffee and tea is acquired through the process of classical conditioning, involving association of these orosensory cues with the psychopharmacological consequences of caffeine ingestion. Accordingly, this study investigated caffeine reinforcement by assessing changes in preference for a novel drink consumed with or without caffeine. Particular care was taken to use "ecologically valid" procedures; that is, overnight caffeine abstinence followed by a cup-of-coffee equivalent dose of caffeine (70 mg) at breakfast. Caffeine had no significant effects on drink preference or mood in subjects with habitually low intakes of caffeine. In contrast, moderate users of caffeine developed a relative dislike for the drink lacking caffeine and showed somewhat lowered mood following overnight caffeine abstinence (e.g., less lively, clearheaded and cheerful), which was significantly improved by caffeine. These together with other recent results strongly suggest that, in everyday life, caffeine reinforcement can occur as the result of the alleviation by caffeine of the adverse effects of overnight caffeine abstinence (negative reinforcement). They also demonstrate the utility of this flavour-conditioning procedure, which could be applied in the wider investigation of the reinforcing properties of drugs.
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