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 decisions to attend and drink at party events in 82 young adult college students, 36 of whom had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and 46 of whom were control participants without an AUD. Participants were presented with a series of hypothetical drinking event scenarios that varied in terms of social incentives (i.e., knowing many versus few people), alcohol incentives (i.e., more versus less alcohol available), and next-day responsibility disincentives (i.e., 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 both decisions to attend party events and 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., ones where they knew more people). However, while low social incentives generally discouraged attendance decisions, AUD participants were more likely than control participants to decide to attend party events in low social incentive contexts. While alcohol incentives did not affect attendance decisions, they did increase drinking amount decisions for AUD participants. Finally, while disincentives decreased attendance and drinking amount decisions in general, AUD participants were less deterred by responsibility disincentives than control participants. These results highlight the important influence of social incentives on drinking-related decisions and suggest individual differences in how incentives and disincentives affect drinking decisions in people 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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