Drinking in real life as an example of how expectations color experiences
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] Drinkers report using alcohol when experiencing negative emotions, e.g., "to feel numb" or escape and also in times of celebration, e.g., "to get high" or socialize (Sher, Grekin, & Williams, 2005). Empirical evidence for an association of emotions and consumptive behavior has been largely correlational and retrospective, and empirical tests of whether drinking actually produces expected emotional changes are few (Shiffman, 2009). This study utilized multilevel, piecewise, discontinuous growth models to examine positive and negative affective trajectories across drinking and non-drinking days as well as appraisals of drink effects in situ. The role of alcohol expectancies in these processes was also examined. Across drinking days and persons, positive affective states increased and negative affective states decreased prior to drinking and after the first drink consumed. Comparing affective trajectories prior to and at a matched timepoint on non-drinking days suggested that these affective changes were specific to drinking days. Although positive affect generally decreased across post-drinking timepoints, this effect was not different for drinking days relative to non-drinking days, and negative affective states did not change across post-drinking timepoints. Interestingly, expectations for enhanced sociability and tension-reduction from drinking were consonant with drinkers' attributions about how the drink made them feel, but only sociability expectancies were consonant with self-reported changes in positive affective states. Findings highlight the importance of testing the assumption that drinking reliably results in the expected emotional experiences. Results also point toward the potential role of pre-drinking affective changes and perceived reinforcement in motivating alcohol use.
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