Individual Differences in Approach and Avoidance Inclinations Moderate the Effect of Self-Control Depletion on Ad-Lib Drinking

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Self-Control, Self-Regulation, Alcohol, Approach, Avoidance

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Background: This study sought to examine how exerting self-control to inhibit stereotype use affects alcohol consumption. In addition, we sought to expand previous findings via examination of how individual differences in motivations to approach or avoid alcohol consumption interact with self-control depletion to determine the regulation of ad-lib drinking behavior.

Methods: Sixty-one social drinkers (31 female) were recruited to participate in a socially relevant self-control depletion task in which they were randomly assigned to 1 of 2 creative writing conditions: (i) the self-control depletion condition with explicit instructions to refrain from using stereotypes, or (ii) the nondepletion condition in which no instructions were given regarding the use of stereotypes. Participants then completed an ad-lib drinking task and self-report questionnaires pertaining to their motivation to consume alcohol.

Results: As predicted, results indicated a significant 3-way interaction between depletion condition, approach inclinations, and avoidance inclinations. Specifically, self-control depletion predicted greater drinking disinhibition (i.e., mean sip size, total alcohol consumption) only among participants high in both approach and avoidance.

Conclusions: Taken together, results from this study highlight the importance of both approach and avoidance inclinations in the failure to regulate alcohol consumption following a routine, socially relevant form of self-control depletion. Our results also suggest that the high approach/high avoidance motivational profile may predict the greatest risk among those actively trying to regulate their drinking.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, v. 39, issue 12, p. 2480-2488