Graduation Year

2005

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Mark Goldman, PhD

Keywords

paired associate learning, school-aged, alcohol use, 5th graders, development

Abstract

Sensation seeking is a personality characteristic associated with problematic alcohol use and positive alcohol expectancies, but little research has examined the relationship between sensation seeking and the acquisition of alcohol expectancy information. In a recent study (Steinberg, 2003), sensation seeking was associated with how quickly and accurately college-aged students were able to learn alcohol-expectancy word pairs in a paired associate learning task. In this age group, however, the individuals had fully developed alcohol expectancies that may have influenced their rates of learning. The current study sought to minimize the influence of previously held alcohol expectancies by exploring this relationship in children when the development of alcohol expectancies is just beginning. The participants in this study were fifth grade students. A series of regressions examined the relationship between sensation seeking, alcohol expectancies, current and predicted future drinking with the acquisition of alcohol and expectancy word pairs in a paired associate learning task. Although no statistically significant relationships were found, children with higher drinking frequency and males with higher Thrill and Adventure Seeking (TAS) demonstrated a minor advantage in their ability to match alcohol and expectancy words in cued-recall trials. Although the results of this study are inconclusive, they suggest that sensation seeking may play a role in the acquisition of alcohol expectancies. Future research with refined word pairs and a larger sample size is necessary to further clarify these trends.

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