Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Robert C. Schlauch, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark S. Goldman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jack Darkes, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chad Dubé, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brent J. Small, Ph.D.


Addiction, Ambivalence Model of Craving, Dual-Processing Theories, Response Inhibition, Working Memory


Research stemming from dual-processing theories suggest that working memory capacity may have an important role in the ability to inhibit automatic tendencies when there is the motivation to do so (Barrett, Tugade, & Engle, 2004). Ambivalence, the simultaneous desire to engage in (approach motivation) and inhibit (avoidance motivation), often occurs with problematic behaviors like alcohol abuse. The current study sought to determine whether individual differences in working memory capacity moderate the relationship between approach, avoidance and subsequent drinking behavior in a clinical sample. A total of 66 individuals with alcohol use disorder (AUD) participated in a baseline assessment of working memory capacity followed by a daily assessment of approach, avoidance, drinking behavior and situational factors (stress and self-efficacy) over a two-week monitoring period. We also explored an alternative cognitive construct (response inhibition), to determine whether it interacts with motivational states in a similar way to predict drinking behavior. Results of multilevel modeling indicated a significant interaction between approach, avoidance and working memory capacity in the prediction of drinking day, but not drinking quantity. Specifically, those with lower working memory capacity were at increased odds of a drinking episode when experiencing ambivalence, while odds of drinking did not increase for those with higher working memory capacity. Exploratory analyses demonstrated the opposite pattern of results when examining response inhibition’s interaction with approach and avoidance. The current study suggests that working memory capacity is an important cognitive ability that supports deliberative decision making when experiencing ambivalence toward alcohol, while also highlighting important theoretical and methodological considerations when examining cognitive and motivational processes.