What Do You Mean "Drunk?" Convergent Validation of Multiple Methods of Mapping Alcohol Expectancy Memory Networks

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affective valence, alcohol expectancies, binge drinking, information processing, memory networks

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The configuration and activation of memory networks have been theorized as mechanisms that underlie the often observed link between alcohol expectancies and drinking. A key component of this network is the expectancy “drunk.” The memory network configuration of “drunk” was mapped by using cluster analysis of data gathered from the paired-similarities task (PST) and the Alcohol Expectancy Multi-Axial Assessment (AEMAX). A third task, the free associates task (FA), assessed participants' strongest alcohol expectancy associates and was used as a validity check for the cluster analyses. Six hundred forty-seven 18–19-year-olds completed these measures and a measure of alcohol consumption at baseline assessment for a 5-year longitudinal study. For both the PST and AEMAX, “drunk” clustered with mainly negative and sedating effects (e.g., “sick,” “dizzy,” “sleepy”) in lighter drinkers and with more positive and arousing effects (e.g., “happy,” “horny,” “outgoing”) in heavier drinkers, showing that the cognitive organization of expectancies reflected drinker type (and might influence the choice to drink). Consistent with the cluster analyses, in participants who gave “drunk” as an FA response, heavier drinkers rated the word as more positive and arousing than lighter drinkers. Additionally, gender did not account for the observed drinker-type differences. These results support the notion that for some emerging adults, drinking may be linked to what they mean by the word “drunk.”

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Psychology of Addictive Behaviors, v. 26, issue 3, p. 406-413