Mood Selectively Moderates the Implicit Alcohol Association–Drinking Relation in College Student Heavy Episodic Drinkers

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Multiple studies indicate that implicit alcohol-related associations (i.e., indices of relatively fast, spontaneous processes) predict drinking. An important next step is to investigate moderators of the implicit association-drinking relationship. Mood state has been proposed as a moderator of this relationship: implicit associations have been theorized to be stronger predictors of drinking under positive mood states. From the same theoretical perspective, explicit measures (indices of relatively slow, reflective processes) have been proposed to be stronger predictors of drinking under negative mood states. The current study evaluated these hypotheses by investigating whether mood state (manipulated via exposure to a brief video clip) moderated the relations between three types of implicit alcohol-related associations (alcohol excite, alcohol approach, and drinking identity), their explicit counterparts, and drinking in a taste test that included beer and soft drinks. A sample of 152 undergraduate social drinkers (81 men; 71 women) completed baseline measures of implicit alcohol-related associations, their explicit counterparts, and typical drinking behaviors. Participants then viewed a mood-state-inducing video clip (positive, neutral, or negative), and completed the taste test. Results were mixed but generally indicated that prediction of drinking by baseline implicit alcohol excite (but not alcohol approach or drinking identity) associations was moderated by mood. Specifically, implicit alcohol excite associations were more negatively associated with drinking after viewing the sad video and more positively associated with drinking after watching the happy/neutral video. Moderation was also observed for the explicit counterpart of alcohol excite. Findings are discussed in terms of models of negative reinforcement drinking.

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