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J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2007 Sep;68(5):759-70.

Contextual influences on alcohol expectancy processes.

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Department of Psychology, Park Hall, University at Buffalo, State University of New York, Buffalo, New York 14260-4110, USA.



Context may differentially influence expectancy dimensions, in turn affecting drinking behavior. The present study examined alcohol cue and mood contextual influences on expectancy activation, controlling for more stable self-reported expectancy endorsement. We were particularly interested in the specific effects of negative mood on affect-relevant (tension reduction) expectancies.


Regularly drinking undergraduates (N = 140; 64 female) underwent a mood (stress or neutral) induction procedure and then were presented with alcohol or nonalcohol beverage cues. Participants next completed a computerized expectancy response time task (ETASK), and self-report measures of drinking variables.


Individual difference analyses generally replicated previous reports on the inverse relationship between alcohol involvement and ETASK response time. However, examination of contextual effects revealed a different pattern of ETASK responding. Participants exposed to alcohol cues were slower to respond to expectancy items than those in the nonalcohol cue condition. Mood and expectancy type moderated this effect; response time after alcohol cues slowed selectively for those in the stress mood condition and only for tension-reduction expectancy items.


These data highlight the dimensionality of expectancies that comes into relief when contextual factors are considered. Expectancy response times index both facilitation, when examined in the context of drinking expertise, and interference, in response to motivationally relevant stimuli. Our data also support the specificity of contextual effects on those expectancies that are context relevant (i.e., mood). Further consideration of these contextual effects on dynamic expectancy processes may improve prediction of drinking behavior in real-world settings.

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