Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

Mark Goldman

Keywords

Alcohol Drinking Patterns, Emerging Adulthood, Risk-Taking, Social Environment, Social Facilitation

Abstract

Emerging adults- youth between the ages of 18-25- experience high rates of alcohol use and drinking-related consequences, yet risky drinking in this group seems to occur in the context of adaptive developmental processes. Such risk-taking behavior is thought to result from neurobehavioral changes impacting personality, cognitive development, and social functioning beginning in early adolescence. Youth seek out stimulation that, while objectively dangerous, may provide opportunity for evolutionary pay-offs. Social environmental cues signaling such pay-offs may facilitate risky behavior. This study aimed to manipulate social context, subsequent drinking-related behavior, and related shifts in risk and reward evaluation. Participants participated in a "focus group" and taste test of placebo beer (ad libitum drinking session) alone (Solo; SF condition) or in groups that either interacted in the focus group session (Social Facilitation; SF condition) or did not (Mere Presence; MP condition). Participants in the MP and SF conditions reported greater desire to drink and poured and drank more during the taste test than those in the S condition. SF participants reported the highest levels of post-manipulation affect valence, arousal, and positive group experience. Expected differences between conditions in risk/reward evaluation were not observed. Results indicate that despite differences in affective and social experiences between the group conditions, the simple presence of others had as strong an impact on drinking behavior as the social facilitation manipulation. Results underscore the complexity of social influences on human behavior.

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