Alcohol Expectancy Priming and Drinking Behavior: The Role of Compatibility Between Prime and Expectancy Content

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Abstract

According to information-processing models of alcohol use, alcohol expectancies constitute representations in long-term memory that may be activated in the presence of drinking-related cues, thereby influencing alcohol consumption. A fundamental implication of this approach is that primed expectancies should affect drinking only for those individuals who possess the specific expectancies primed. To test this notion, in the present study, participants were initially assessed on 3 distinct domains of positive alcohol expectancies. Approximately 1 week later, they completed an ad libitum drinking study during which only a single expectancy domain (sociability) was primed in the experimental condition. Consistent with predictions, following exposure to sociability primes but not control primes, individuals with stronger expectancies that alcohol would enhance sociability uniquely showed increased placebo consumption of nonalcoholic beer. These results, which demonstrate the moderating role of compatibility between the specific content of primes and that of underlying expectancies, offer new, direct support for memory network-based models of drinking behavior.

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