Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy




Clinical Psychology

Committee Chair

James G. Murphy

Committee Member

Meghan McDevitt-Murphy

Committee Member

Gilbert Parra

Committee Member

Matthew Martens


Heavy episodic drinking among young adults poses an important public health concern and leaves young adults vulnerable to experiencing a variety of alcohol-related consequences. Young adults with depressive symptoms, a family history of alcohol problems, and higher levels of impulsivitiy-related traits may be at greater risk. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the utility of the behavioral economic concept of reinforcing efficacy (RE) as a measure of problem severity among young adult drinkers. RE is a construct which measures the behavior-strengthening effects of a given substance and quantifies the relative value of a substance to an individual. Seven different measures of RE were included in this two sample study. The first sample included heavy drinking college students recruited through an on-campus health center and university courses. The second sample included non-college young adults who reported consuming alcohol in the past month recruited through Amazon's Mechanical Turk. The construct validity of these seven different RE variables was assessed, and results suggest that RE is a single, heterogeneous factor. RE metrics related to the amount of time and money spent on alcohol, as well as consumption when alcohol is freely available, demonstrated the strongest and most consistent relations with alcohol-related pathology. A relative behavioral allocation metric appears to be the most predictive across multiple domains of problems and both samples included in this study.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.