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Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2012 Jan;219(2):501-10. doi: 10.1007/s00213-011-2396-z. Epub 2011 Jul 7.

Components of behavioural impulsivity and automatic cue approach predict unique variance in hazardous drinking.

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School of Psychology, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZA, UK.



Hazardous drinking is associated with both increased impulsivity and automatic approach tendencies elicited by alcohol-related cues. However, impulsivity is a multi-factorial construct, and it is currently unclear if all components of impulsivity are associated with heavy drinking. Furthermore, emerging evidence suggests that the relationships between hazardous drinking and automatic alcohol cognitions may be moderated by individual differences in impulsivity.


The aim of this study was to investigate the independence of measures of impulsivity and their association with hazardous drinking, and to examine if the relationship between hazardous drinking and automatic alcohol approach tendencies would be moderated by individual differences in impulsivity.


Ninety-seven social drinkers (65 female) completed questionnaire measures of trait impulsivity, alcohol consumption and hazardous drinking. Participants also completed computerised measures of automatic alcohol approach tendencies (stimulus-response compatibility (SRC) task), and two behavioural measures of impulsivity (Go/No-go and delay discounting tasks).


Principal component analysis revealed that the two measures of behavioural impulsivity were distinct from each other and from self-reported trait impulsivity, although self-reported non-planning impulsivity loaded on to two factors (trait impulsivity and delay discounting). Furthermore, all measures of impulsivity predicted unique variance in hazardous drinking as did automatic alcohol approach tendencies, although the latter relationship was not moderated by impulsivity.


These results indicate that multiple components of impulsivity and automatic alcohol approach tendencies explain unique variance in hazardous drinking.

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