Research & Resources

Social Incentives Are Stronger Predictors of Drinking Decisions than Alcohol Incentives in Young Adults: The Role of Alcohol Use Disorder

This study investigated the influence of social incentives, alcohol incentives, and responsibility disincentives on young adult college students’ decisions to attend and drink at parties. Of the participants, 36 had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 46 were control participants without an AUD. Participants were presented with a series of hypothetical drinking event scenarios that varied in terms of social incentives (knowing many versus few people), alcohol incentives (more versus less alcohol available), and next-day responsibility disincentives (high versus moderate versus low). Participants were asked whether they would attend the event and how many drinks they would consume. For all participants, social incentives significantly predicted their decisions to attend party events and their decisions about how much to drink. Participants were more likely to decide to attend and drink more at high-social-incentive party events (i.e., where they knew more people). However, participants with an AUD were more likely than control participants to decide to attend party events in low-social-incentive contexts. Alcohol incentives did not affect attendance decisions, but they did increase drinking amount decisions for participants with an AUD. Finally, while next-day responsibility disincentives decreased attendance and drinking amount decisions in general, participants with an AUD were less deterred than control participants. These results highlight the importance of social rewards on drinking-related decisions and suggest individual differences in how incentives and disincentives affect drinking decisions in young adult college students with an AUD.

This paper, “Social incentives are stronger predictors of drinking decisions than alcohol incentives in young adults: The role of alcohol use disorder,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Alcohol.

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