Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark S. Goldman, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Emanuel Donchin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas Brandon, Ph.D.


alcohol expectancies, event-related potentials, P300, semantic processing, PCA


Investigations of the anticipated effects of alcohol indicate that cognitive frameworks are highly correlated with drinking and other variables associated with alcohol use, explaining up to 50% of the variance in drinking outcomes (Goldman, Darkes, & Del Boca, 1999; Goldman, 2002; Goldman et al., 2006; Goldman, Reich, & Darkes, 2006). Furthermore, alcohol expectancies appear to mediate the relationship between a variety of risk factors, such as sensation seeking, and alcohol outcomes (Darkes, Greenbaum, & Goldman, 2004). The current study examined the relationship of these cognitive networks with a physiological index of expectancy violation

Participants were presented with statements reflecting a wide range of alcohol outcome effects, which either violated or confirmed the participant’s own set of alcohol expectancies, while the ERPs evoked by these stimuli were recorded. As predicted, the P300 amplitude elicited by negative alcohol expectancy stimuli was positively correlated with the degree of endorsement of positive/arousing expectancies on the self-report measure. That is, the higher the individual’s positive/arousing expectancies, the larger the P300 elicited by stimuli asserting the negative effects of alcohol. There was no significant correlation, however, between P300 amplitude elicited by positive alcohol expectancy stimuli and the degree of endorsement of negative/sedating expectancies on the selfreport measure.

In addition, individual differences relating to alcohol expectancies were examined as well. These results were able to identify specific stimuli that violated expectancies for each individual, as well as those that tended to violate expectancies in systematic ways across subjects. These findings provide a way forward for more precise assessment and prediction based on the well developed cognitive model of Alcohol Expectancies.

In sum, variations in the amplitude of the P300 were consistent with the model of Alcohol Expectancies. Words imputing negative/sedating effects of alcohol elicited a large P300 in individuals with higher positive alcohol expectancies. By indexing the brain’s electrophysiological response sensitive to expectancy violations, these findings demonstrate concordance between verbal measures of alcohol expectancies, which by their very nature are introspective, and a psychophysiological index of expectancy thought to operate automatically and to be independent of overt responding.