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In verbis, vinum? Relating themes in an open-ended writing task to alcohol behaviors

Lowe, RD, Heim, D, Chung, CK, Duffy, JC, Davies, JB and Pennebaker, JW (2013) In verbis, vinum? Relating themes in an open-ended writing task to alcohol behaviors. APPETITE, 68. ISSN 0195-6663


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Alcohol's function as a regulator of emotions has long been denoted in figures of speech, most famously 'in vino, veritas' (in wine,truth). In contrast, we ask whether an individual's alcohol-related behaviors can be inferred from the words they use to write about alcohol. Participants completed an open-ended essay as part of a survey on alcohol attitudes and behaviors. We used a computerized technique, the Meaning Extraction Method, to summarize the responses into thematic tropes, and correlated these with quantitative measurements of demographics, attitudes and behaviors. Participants were recruited using a random population postal survey in the U.K (n=1229). Principal components analysis identified co-occurring words to locate themes in the responses. Seven themes were identified that corresponded to both negative and positive aspects of alcohol consumption ranging from concern for the influence of alcohol on others (e.g., children and family) to participants' own enjoyment of alcohol (e.g., social drinking). Significant correlations suggested a relationship between the essay responses and individual consumption patterns and attitudes. This study therefore examines how individuals in UK drinking cultures commonly construe alcohol consumption in their own words.

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