Implicit alcohol expectancies, or beliefs about alcohol which exist in the form of automatic memory associations, are thought to uniquely affect drinking behavior. Research also has indicated that there may be a distinctive relationship between negative reinforcement and alcohol use in women. However, the most common measures used to examine implicit alcohol cognitions may be insufficient to examine associations involving negative reinforcement.
The current study utilized the Lexical Decision Task (LDT) to examine the relationship between implicit alcohol cognitions and reported drinking in a sample of college women. Seventy-eight female participants completed a LDT including alcohol- and emotion-words, questionnaire measures of explicit alcohol expectancies, and a measure of drinking behavior at baseline and after two months.
Strong associations between negative emotion-words and alcohol-words (as measured by the LDT) were found to predict drinking at follow up, and to account for unique variance in drinking beyond the contribution of explicit measures.
In addition, women who reported heavier drinking in response to social conflict on an explicit measure showed stronger priming of alcohol words by negative emotion words, thus implying that the LDT may tap into implicit cognitions related to alcohol use as a method of coping.
These findings suggest that the LDT is sensitive to negative-reinforcement associations in a way that other measures are not.
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