Influence of sensation seeking on response to alcohol versus placebo: Implications for the acquired preparedness model

Caitlin Scott, William Corbin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective: Previous research has identified several aspects of behavioral undercontrol that are associated with heavy drinking and problems. Further, research on the acquired preparedness model (Smith and Anderson, 2001) has identified biased learning as a potential mechanism of these effects. Traits like sensation seeking have been linked to stronger positive and weaker negative expectancies, which, in turn, contribute to increased risk for heavy drinking and problems. Although expectancies are thought to represent potentially biased expectations about drinking outcomes, they may also reflect individual differences in alcohol response. The present study examined the strength of associations between sensation seeking and both expectancies (response to placebo) and subjective response under alcohol. Method: Using a between-subjects design, young adult social drinkers (N = 236) were randomly assigned to receive alcohol (target breath alcohol concentration of 08%) or placebo, after which they reported on subjective experiences of stimulation and sedation. Results: Sensation seeking was significantly related to stimulant response, and the strength of this association did not differ by beverage condition (alcohol vs. placebo). Conclusions: The findings argue against a pharmacological explanation for results of prior studies of the acquired preparedness model and support a biased learning interpretation of relations between sensation seeking and positive expectancies. Results also extend the findings on the acquired preparedness model to an implicit measure of positive alcohol expectancies (subjective response to placebo). Future studies using additional measures of implicit expectancies (e.g., Implicit Association Test) would be helpful in determining the relative strength of implicit and explicit expectancies as mediators within the acquired preparedness model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-144
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


Dive into the research topics of 'Influence of sensation seeking on response to alcohol versus placebo: Implications for the acquired preparedness model'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this