Action Identification of Drinking and Self-Control

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A number of investigators have proposed that self-control over addictive behaviors may be influenced by the way individuals mentally represent their actions. Previous research based on questionnaires has suggested that those who report higher-level identifications of their alcohol use behavior may exhibit more difficulty controlling their alcohol use (Wegner, Vallacher, & Dizadji, 1989). However, it is unclear whether this association is because of characteristic ways of mentally representing specific drinking events or the fact that those who have more impaired control consume more alcohol and drink across a broader array of situations. The current study sought to address this question by examining the association between impaired control over alcohol and action identification of drinking behavior in a structured laboratory drinking task. Ninety-one young adult hazardous drinkers (21–35 years) completed the Impaired Control Over Alcohol Scale (Heather, Tebbut, Mattick, & Zamir, 1993) and an alcohol consumption task. Participants then completed a Likert scale measure to assess action identification of their drinking behavior. Results showed that those who reported greater impaired control over alcohol experienced the drinking task at higher-level action identification even when accounting for alcohol consumption variables. These findings are consistent with the view that higher-level identification of alcohol use behavior may hinder self-control (Wegner et al., 1989), and that self-management approaches may be enhanced through strategies to address mental representation of action.

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