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Behav Res Ther. 2008 Nov;46(11):1210-9. doi: 10.1016/j.brat.2008.08.003. Epub 2008 Aug 20.

Drinking without thinking: an implicit measure of alcohol motivation predicts failure to control alcohol use.

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Department of Psychology, North Dakota State University, P.O. Box 5075, Fargo, ND 58105, USA.


Addiction is characterized by dyscontrol - substance use despite intentions to restrain. Using a sample of at-risk drinkers, the present study examined whether an implicit measure of alcohol motivation (the Implicit Association Test [IAT]; Greenwald, A.G., McGhee, D.E., & Schwartz, J.L.K. (1998). Measuring individual differences in implicit cognition: the Implicit Association Test. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 74, 1464-1480) would predict dyscontrol of alcohol use. Participants completed an IAT and, to elicit motivation to restrain alcohol use, were instructed that greater consumption in a taste test would impair performance on a later task for which they could win a prize. All participants viewed aversive slides and then completed a thought-listing task. Participants either exerted self-control by suppressing negative affect and thoughts regarding the slides or did not exert self-control. Post-manipulation, the groups did not differ in mood, urge to drink or motivation to restrain consumption. During the subsequent taste test, participants whose self-control resources were depleted consumed more alcohol than did those in the control group. Additionally, the IAT, but not an explicit measure of alcohol motivation, more strongly predicted alcohol use when self-control resources were depleted. The results indicate that the IAT may have utility in predicting dyscontrolled alcohol use.

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