Implicit and explicit alcohol cognitions: The moderating effect of executive functions

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Aims: Research informed by dual-process models of addictions has clearly demonstrated an association between implicit and explicit alcohol-related cognitions and alcohol consumption. However, the literature is limited with respect to examination of the cognitive abilities that may moderate these associations across populations. This study examined relations among alcohol associations, inhibition and alcohol consumption in a sample of college students. It was hypothesized that the executive ability of response inhibition would moderate relations between alcoholrelated cognitions and alcohol consumption, such that individuals with weaker response inhibition would demonstrate stronger relations between implicit cognitions and use, while individuals with stronger response inhibition would demonstrate more robust relations between explicit cognitions and use. Methods: Research participants (N = 205, age 19.0 years (standard deviation = 1.1)) mostly female (n = 150, 73.2%) completed two implicit association tasks measuring alcohol-related positive/arousal and relaxation associations. In addition, participants completed questionnaires regarding alcohol expectancies, alcohol consumption and problems, and various measures of inhibition. We tested study hypotheses using structural equation modeling and probed significant interactions using simple slope analyses. Results: We found support for a moderating effect of response inhibition on relations between implicit relaxation associations and alcohol consumption. We did not find a moderating effect of working memory capacity on relations between alcohol-related associations and use. Conclusions: Findings from this study further our understanding of differential cognitive and inhibition factors that contribute to underage alcohol consumption with implications for preventive interventions to reduce alcohol misuse and consequences. Short summary: We investigated whether the effect of implicit and explicit alcohol associations on alcohol consumption was moderated by response inhibition and working memory among college students. Response inhibition moderated the effect of implicit relaxation associations on consumption. We did not obtain support for moderation by working memory, or of explicit associations.

Publication Title

Alcohol and Alcoholism