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Friday, July 5, 2013

Normative Perceptions and Past-year Consequences as Predictors of Subjective Evaluations and Weekly Drinking Behavior


Problem drinking during the college years continues to be an important area of study. Subjective evaluations of consequences have recently been demonstrated to predict future drinking behavior; however, what predicts those evaluations is yet unknown.

Social Learning Theory (SLT) provides a guiding framework in this study with primary aims to investigate whether individual differences in past experience with and normative perceptions of alcohol consequences predict subjective evaluations (i.e., the extent to which consequences are perceived as negative, aversive, or severe) and weekly drinking behavior. We also test whether evaluations mediate the influence of past consequences and norms on weekly drinking behavior. Following a baseline assessment, participants (N = 96 regularly drinking college students, 52% female) completed ten weekly web-based surveys on previous week alcohol use, consequences, and subjective evaluations of those consequences. A series of hierarchical linear models were used to test hypotheses.

Most mediational pathways were not supported – weekly level evaluations do not appear to fully explain the effect of norms or past experience on weekly level drinking behavior. However, results demonstrated that normative perceptions of and past experience with consequences were associated with both weekly drinking behavior and subjective evaluations, and evaluations remained significant predictors of alcohol use behavior after accounting for these important between-person influences.

Findings support the importance placed by SLT on cognition in drinking behavior, and suggest that norms for consequences and subjective evaluations may be appropriate targets of intervention in college students.

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