Implicit Associations and Drinking Motives in Social Anxiety
Prior literature has used self-report measures of alcohol motivation, which are notably sensitive to response bias, in addition to either performance or social interaction threat stimuli, in order to identify circumstances under which socially anxious students are more vulnerable to problem-inducing alcohol consumption. The current study measured social anxiety, alcohol consumption, motives, and related problems, and employed an Implicit Association Task (IAT), which measures implicit cognitions through response times. IAT scores compared both performance and social interaction threat exposure to examine the impact of differing social situations on socially anxious students' implicit drinking cognitions. Results showed that the high social anxiety group responded significantly faster to pairings of images of beer and "approach" words when presented with a social interaction threat than with a performance threat. These results may demonstrate that the type of threatening situations socially anxious students are exposed to, as well as their implicit drinking cognitions, may play a key role in determining when and whether they are more likely to consume alcohol and develop problems as a result. Identifying these circumstances in the future may be useful in developing intervention strategies for socially anxious students with alcohol-related problems.