BLAME IT ON THE ALCOHOL: CONTEXTUAL ACTIVATION OF RELATIONSHIP-SPECIFIC ALCOHOL EXPECTANCIES
MetadataShow full item record
Alcohol expectancies (i.e., beliefs about the effects of alcohol) have been shown to influence drinking behavior. However, this effect only seems to occur in particular contexts, such as the romantic relationship. Previous research has found that relationship-specific alcohol expectancies (RSAE) are alcohol expectancies directly pertaining to the romantic partner. They can exist in four domains – intimacy, social pleasure/fun, sexual enhancement, and power – and have been found to impact relationship satisfaction. The current study provides the first attempt to understand what contexts activate RSAE. Participants first completed a baseline assessment of RSAEs. Next, they wrote an essay in response to one of four randomly assigned prompts: drink alcohol/coffee with partner/friend. Finally, participants completed a lexical decision task in which the target words represented the four RSAE domains: intimacy, fun, sexual enhancement, and power. ANCOVA analyses revealed significant main effects of condition on intimacy RSAEs. There was also a significant two-way Sexual RSAE X Partner Cue interaction predicting reaction times to sexual target words. Those with high baseline sexual RSAEs demonstrated response time speeding when responding to sexual words after being primed with partner cues. Finally, there was a significant three-way Intimacy RSAEs X Alcohol Cue X Partner Cue interaction predicting reaction times to intimacy target words. Those with high baseline intimacy RSAEs demonstrated response time slowing, or task interference, when responding to intimacy words after being primed with alcohol and/or partner cues. Those with low baseline intimacy RSAE did not show this effect. These results demonstrate that sexual words are semantically linked to the partner but intimacy words are motivationally relevant to those with pre-existing intimacy RSAEs when either alcohol cues or partner cues are present.