Implicit alcohol associations, especially drinking identity, predict drinking over time


There is considerable excitement about implicit alcohol associations (IAAs) as predictors of college-student hazardous drinking; however, few studies have investigated IAAs prospectively, included multiple assessments, or controlled for previous drinking. Doing so is essential for showing the utility of these associations as predictors, and ultimately, targets for screening or intervention. Therefore, 3 IAAs (i.e., drinking identity, alcohol approach, and alcohol excitement) were evaluated as prospective predictors of drinking in 1st- and 2nd-year undergraduates in the United States.A sample of 506 undergraduates completed 8 online assessments of IAAs, explicit measures of the IAA constructs, and hazardous drinking (i.e., consumption, problems, and risk of alcohol-use disorders) every 3 months over a 21-month period. Retention rates, ordered by follow-up time points, were 90%, 76%, 76%, 77%, 72%, 67%, and 66%, respectively. Half of the participants were nondrinkers at baseline; 21% were above clinical cutoffs for hazardous drinking.Drinking-identity and alcohol-excitement associations predicted future alcohol consumption and problems after controlling for previous drinking and explicit measures; drinking identity also predicted future risk of alcohol-use disorder. Relative to the other IAAs, drinking identity predicted alcohol consumption for the longest duration (i.e., 21 months). Alcohol-approach associations rarely predicted variance in drinking.IAAs vary in their utility as prospective predictors of college-student hazardous drinking. Drinking identity and, to a lesser extent, alcohol excitement, emerged as robust prospective predictors of hazardous drinking. Intervention and screening efforts could likely benefit from targeting those associations.



Implicit cognition, Alcohol, Drinking, Drinking identity, Implicit association test (IAT)


Copyright 2016 Health Psychology. This is a post-print version of a published paper that is available at: Recommended citation: Lindgren, Kristen P., Clayton Neighbors, Bethany A. Teachman, Scott A. Baldwin, Jeanette Norris, Debra Kaysen, Melissa L. Gasser, and Reinout W. Wiers. "Implicit Alcohol Associations, Especially Drinking Identity, Predict Drinking Over Time." Health Psychology 35, no. 8 (2016): 908-918. doi: 10.1037/hea0000396. This item has been deposited in accordance with publisher copyright and licensing terms and with the author’s permission.