Time Constraints in the Alcohol Purchase Task

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Hypothetical purchase tasks have advanced behavioral economic evaluations of demand by circumventing practical and ethical restrictions associated with delivering drug reinforcers to participants. Numerous studies examining the reliability and validity of purchase task methodology suggest that it is a valuable method for assessing demand that warrants continued use and evaluation. Within the literature examining purchase tasks, the alcohol purchase task (APT) has received the most investigation, and currently represents the most experimentally validated variant. However, inconsistencies in purchase task methodology between studies exist, even within APT studies, and, to date, none have assessed the influence of experimental economic constraints on responding. This study examined changes in Q0 (reported consumption when drinks are free), breakpoint (price that suppresses consumption), and α (rate of change in demand elasticity) in the presence of different hypothetical durations of access to alcohol in an APT. One hundred seventy-nine participants (94 males, 85 females) from Amazon Mechanical Turk completed 3 APTs that varied in the duration of time at a party (i.e., access to alcoholic beverages) as described in the APT instructions (i.e., vignette). The 3 durations included 5-hr (used by Murphy et al., 2013), 1-hr, and 9-hr time frames. We found that hypothetical duration of access was significantly related to Q0 and breakpoint at the individual level. Additionally, group-level mean α decreased significantly with increases in duration of access, thus indicating relatively higher demand for alcohol with longer durations of access. We discuss implications for conducting hypothetical purchase task research and alcohol misuse prevention efforts.

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