Date of Award

Fall 12-2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Clinical Psychology

Committee Director

Cathy Lau-Barraco

Committee Member

Michelle L. Kelley

Committee Member

Debra Major


Drinking to cope with negative emotions is associated with many negative alcohol-related outcomes such as increased alcohol use, drinking-related problems, and alcohol use disorders. An acute stressor is one example of a stimulus leading to negative emotions that an individual may wish to avoid. Research has shown that acute stress positively relates to drinking. Specifically, previous experimental studies have shown that individuals exposed to a stressor drink more alcohol and have stronger urges to drink than those not exposed to a stressor. Thus, it may be that drinking to cope explains why people experience alcohol cravings after experiencing a stressor. Additionally, because it has been suggested that attitudes and behaviors sometimes occur implicitly, it is possible that implicit drinking to cope explains the association between stress and drinking urges beyond explicit, self-reported drinking to cope. To address this research question, the current study sought to: 1) test the impact of an acute stressor on alcohol craving, 2) investigate implicit drinking to cope as a mediator of the association between acute stress and alcohol craving, and 3) examine positive alcohol expectancies and adaptive coping as moderators of the indirect effect from acute stress to implicit coping motives to alcohol craving. Participants were 21 (52.4% female) college student drinkers. Using a between-subjects experimental design, participants were randomly assigned to an experimental (i.e., acute stress) condition or control (i.e., neutral) condition and completed baseline measures of alcohol-related attitudes and psychological functioning as well as post-manipulation measures of implicit drinking to cope and alcohol craving. Results indicated that acute stress did not induce increased drinking urges in the experimental group. Additionally, implicit coping motives did not mediate the stress-craving association, regardless of level of adaptive coping or positive expectancies. However, a lack of power makes these findings tenuous. Efforts to replicate the current results should do so with a much larger sample size. Additionally, future research should examine the present models in heavier-drinking samples and include indicators of alcohol use other than alcohol craving.


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