Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Mark Goldman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Marina Bornovalova, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chad Dubé, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Kristen Salomon, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Schlauch, Ph.D.


Alcohol Expectancies, Balloon Analogue Risk Task, Impulsivity, Priming


Impulsivity-related traits explain a significant and meaningful level of variance in the prediction of drinking behavior. Previous research has demonstrated that although risk taking propensity has been conceptualized as a "trait-like" construct, there are contextual and situational factors that affect an individual's likelihood of engaging in risk taking behavior, including drinking behavior. Despite the well-established relationship between alcohol use and risk behavior (e.g., risky sexual behavior, physical assault, etc.), it is unclear how alcohol-related context influences risk taking on a computerized behavioral task. Grounded in alcohol expectancy theory (which holds that information processing about the rewarding effects of alcohol mediates the influences of different affective processes on drinking-related behavior), the present study—using online-based assessments—examined whether implicitly priming undergraduate social-drinking participants with alcohol-related stimuli (images and arousing expectancy words) would lead to greater risk taking and disinhibition on computerized tasks. Results were complicated by baseline group differences in drinking, expectancies, and the day of the week in which participants completed the task; regardless, the central hypothesis was not supported, as participants exposed to alcohol images and expectancy words were not significantly riskier on the BART or more impulsive on the Go/No-Go than participants exposed to neutral images and words. Exploratory analyses indicated that participants who completed the tasks on days associated with drinking (Thursdays through Saturdays) were significantly riskier than participants who completed the tasks on other days, and that this effect was the strongest when participants were exposed to alcohol primes. While consistent with the context sensitivity of alcohol cognitions and risk taking, the lack of random assignment to day of the week precludes causal interpretation. Nonetheless, the results indicate that research on the assessment of risk taking in a naturalistic context (e.g., through ecological momentary assessment) is warranted.