EVIDENCE FOR SOCIAL LEARNING IN THE SELF-PRESENTATION OF ALCOHOL PROBLEMS

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Abstract

Aims

To examine the extent to which problem alcohol users’ self reports of drinking pattern and symptomatology derive primarily from a functional, learned social-cognitive schema (referred to as a ‘script’ in this paper), rather than from acts of recall or memory.

Methods

Using a between-groups design with one repeated (within-subjects) measure, problem drinkers and non-problem drinkers were asked to complete a questionnaire about drinking behaviour and symptoms. Each group filled in the questionnaire twice, under both of two conditions. In condition one, they used the questionnaire to describe their own drinking and in condition two they were asked to describe the drinking of the other group (i.e. the problem drinkers filled out the questionnaire to describe non-problem drinking and the non-problem drinkers described problem drinking).

Results

Using analyses of variance for the different sub-scales of the questionnaire, no overall differences were found between the two groups on four of the five subscales. However, clear and significant differences were found between the two conditions. That is, both groups were able to produce clearly differentiated scripts for both problem drinking and non-problem drinking.

Conclusions

These data, together with related data from other sources, suggest that ‘scripts’ for problem drinking and for non-problem drinking can be elicited from both problem-drinking and non-problem-drinking groups. The data support conclusions from an earlier study, suggesting that subjects may use learned ‘scripts’ rather than recall when responding to certain types of questionnaire instruments.

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