Alcohol-related attitudes of heavy drinkers: Effects of arousal and valence in evaluative conditioning

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Yoon Jung Choi
Jang-Han Lee
Cite this article:  Choi, Y., & Lee, J. (2015). Alcohol-related attitudes of heavy drinkers: Effects of arousal and valence in evaluative conditioning. Social Behavior and Personality: An international journal, 43(2), 205-216.


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We investigated the effects of 2 dimensions of affect in evaluative conditioning (EC) on changing alcohol-related attitudes in a sample of students whom we had identified as fitting set criteria to be classified as heavy drinkers. We divided participants into 2 EC groups (high-arousal EC condition, n = 18; low-arousal EC condition, n = 18) and measured their explicit and implicit attitudes toward alcohol. Comparison of results before and after EC indicated that participants reported a greater decrease in both explicit attitudes about positive alcohol expectancies and explicit cravings. However, in regard to implicit attitudes, the results showed that the high-arousal EC condition was associated with a stronger positive attitude toward alcohol after, rather than before, EC, whereas in the low-arousal EC group, implicit attitudes toward alcohol did not change. These results imply that high levels of affect arousal during EC can positively strengthen the implicit evaluation of alcohol in a student sample of heavy drinkers, while decreasing explicit attitudes about cravings and positive expectancies. Thus, based on attitude conditioning, it is important to consider the arousal as well as the valence of affect in treatment of alcohol addiction in order to change alcohol-related attitudes in heavy drinkers.

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