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Implicit alcohol attitudes predict drinking behaviour over and above intentions and willingness in young adults but willingness is more important in adolescents: Implications for the Prototype Willingness Model

Davies, EL and Paltoglou, AE and Foxcroft, DR (2017) Implicit alcohol attitudes predict drinking behaviour over and above intentions and willingness in young adults but willingness is more important in adolescents: Implications for the Prototype Willingness Model. British Journal of Health Psychology, 22 (2). pp. 238-253. ISSN 1359-107X

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Abstract

© 2016 The British Psychological Society. Objectives: Dual process models, such as the Prototype Willingness Model (PWM), propose to account for both intentional and reactive drinking behaviour. Current methods of measuring constructs in the PWM rely on self-report, thus require a level of conscious deliberation. Implicit measures of attitudes may overcome this limitation and contribute to our understanding of how prototypes and willingness influence alcohol consumption in young people. This study aimed to explore whether implicit alcohol attitudes were related to PWM constructs and whether they would add to the prediction of risky drinking. Design: The study involved a cross-sectional design. The sample included 501 participants from the United Kingdom (M age 18.92; range 11–51; 63% female); 230 school pupils and 271 university students. Methods: Participants completed explicit measures of alcohol prototype perceptions, willingness, drunkenness, harms, and intentions. They also completed an implicit measure of alcohol attitudes, using the Implicit Association Test. Results: Implicit alcohol attitudes were only weakly related to the explicit measures. When looking at the whole sample, implicit alcohol attitudes did not add to the prediction of willingness over and above prototype perceptions. However, for university students implicit attitudes added to the prediction of behaviour, over and above intentions and willingness. For school pupils, willingness was a stronger predictor of behaviour than intentions or implicit attitudes. Conclusions: Adding implicit measures to the PWM may contribute to our understanding of the development of alcohol behaviours in young people. Further research could explore how implicit attitudes develop alongside the shift from reactive to planned behaviour. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Young people's drinking tends to occur in social situations and is driven in part by social reactions within these contexts. The Prototype Willingness Model (PWM) attempts to explain such reactive behaviour as the result of social comparison to risk prototypes, which influence willingness to drink, and subsequent behaviour. Evidence also suggests that risky drinking in young people may be influenced by implicit attitudes towards alcohol, which develop with repeated exposure to alcohol over time. One criticism of the PWM is that prototypes and willingness are usually measured using explicit measures which may not adequately capture young people's spontaneous evaluations of prototypes, or their propensity to act without forethought in a social context. What does this study add? This study is novel in exploring the addition of implicit alcohol attitudes to the social reaction pathway in the model in order to understand more about these reactive constructs. Implicit alcohol attitudes added to the prediction of behaviour, over and above intentions and willingness for university students. For school pupils, willingness was a stronger predictor of behaviour than intentions or implicit attitudes. Findings suggest that adding implicit alcohol attitudes into the PWM might be able to explain the shift from reactive to intentional drinking behaviours with age and experience.

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