Alcohol Expectancies and Cuereactivity to Affective and Alcohol-Related Cues

David J. Drobes, University of South Florida
Ashlee C. Carter
Mark S. Goldman


Recent conceptualizations of alcohol expectancies relate cognitive schemas to their neurobiological underpinnings; cue reactivity paradigms lend themselves well to testing this broadened conceptual framework. In the present study, we examined the relationship between self-reported alcohol expectancies and responses to alcohol-related and affective picture cues among fifty-five young adults. In addition to traditional subjective and psychophysiological indices of cue reactivity, the startle eyeblink reflex was obtained during picture cue presentations to address both attention-arousal (early probes) and affective-motivational (late probes) aspects of cue processing. Analyses indicated that participants reporting greater positive, arousing, and social alcohol expectancies rated alcohol cues as more pleasant, arousing, and craving-inducing. In addition, participants displayed inhibited startle reactivity to late alcohol cue probes, indicative of an appetitive reaction. Finally, startle responding to early probes indicated that participants with greater alcohol expectancies displayed blunted attention to negative affect cues. Findings are discussed in terms of the utility of the startle reflex and cue reactivity paradigms for clarifying the relationship between alcohol expectancies and motivated attention to salient cues.