The role of positive consequences of alcohol in the relation between sensation seeking and drinking


College students exhibit high levels of heavy drinking that are often associated with negative consequences, including unsafe sexual activity, injury, and legal trouble. The fact that students continue to drink despite these outcomes suggests they experience salient positive consequences. A known risk factor of drinking is the personality trait sensation seeking (SS), which may influence how a person interprets alcohol-related consequences and ultimately result in increased alcohol consumption. In this study, we examined the relations between SS, positive and negative consequences, and drinking among college students. Participants were 206 undergraduates who reported recent heavy drinking (53 female, 65 white, and 26 African-American). Students with higher levels of SS reported drinking more and also indicated experiencing more positive consequences as a result of their drinking than participants with lower levels of SS. This relation between SS and drinking was mediated by positive consequences, suggesting that one reason why students with higher levels of SS drink more than other students is that they experience more positive consequences from drinking. This could be due to increased social interactions typical of high SS students, resulting in a more positive appraisal of the drinking context. These conclusions may inform college drinking prevention and intervention programs. © 2012 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved: reproduction in whole or part not permitted.

Publication Title

Addiction Research and Theory