A behavioral economic analysis of the effect of next-day responsibilities on drinking


Approximately 37% of college students report heavy episodic drinking (5 or more drinks in an occasion for men and 4 or more for women) in the past month. This pattern of drinking is often associated with high blood alcohol levels, accidents, injuries, and negative social and academic outcomes. There is a need for novel theoretical approaches to guide prevention efforts. Behavioral economics emphasizes the role of contextual determinants, such as drink price and the presence and amount of alternative reinforcement as determinants of drinking levels and has received strong empirical support in basic laboratory research. This translational research study used a hypothetical behavioral economic measure to investigate the impact of a variety of next-day responsibilities on night-before drinking intentions in a sample of first-year college students (N = 80; 50% female) who reported recent heavy episodic drinking. Drinking estimates were significantly lower in all of the responsibility conditions relative to the no-responsibility condition; internships were associated with the greatest reduction (drm = 1.72), and earlier class times were associated with greater reductions in drinking intentions (drm range = 1.22-1.35) than later class times (drm range = 0.83-1.00). These results suggest that increasing morning responsibilities should be further investigated as a potential strategy to reduce drinking in college students.

Publication Title

Psychology of Addictive Behaviors