I'm tired and feel like drinking: Viewing alcohol cues after exerting self-control increases approach motivation among individuals lower in alcohol sensitivity

Zachary W Petzel, Jeffrey G Noel, Bettina J Casad

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Exerting self-control depletes capacity for future self-control, which can promote greater alcohol use. However, certain populations may be more susceptible to these effects of depleted self-control capacity. For example, individuals with lower alcohol sensitivity (i.e., requiring more drinks to experience the effects of alcohol) are a high-risk group who are likely to engage in hazardous alcohol use and develop an alcohol use disorder. Those lower in alcohol sensitivity also exhibit heightened motivational reactivity in response to alcohol-related cues, which may be enhanced following exertion of self-control. However, whether drinkers lower in alcohol sensitivity are at higher risk for exhibiting greater motivations toward alcohol-related cues after exerting self-control is unclear. The current research examined the role of alcohol sensitivity in predicting approach motivation following exertion of self-control. It was expected drinkers exerting self-control would exhibit greater orientation toward rewarding cues, particularly after viewing alcohol-related cues. However, we predicted this pattern would be most prominent among drinkers lower in alcohol sensitivity. Experiment 1 supported these hypotheses, with lower alcohol sensitivity predicting greater approach motivation among drinkers required to exert self-control prior to viewing alcohol-related compared to neutral cues. Experiment 2 aimed to replicate these findings by assessing asymmetrical frontal cortical activation, an index of approach motivation. Drinkers with lower alcohol sensitivity exhibited greater relative left frontal cortical activation, consistent with approach motivation, while viewing alcohol-related cues following exertion of self-control. Results have implications for interventions aimed at identifying those at risk for greater alcohol motivations during states of mental exhaustion. 

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychology of Addictive Behaviors
Early online date09 Sep 2019
Publication statusEarly online date - 09 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


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