Context Effects and False Memory for Alcohol Words in Adolescents

Document Type



Community and Global Health (CGU)

Publication Date



Community Health | Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Substance Abuse and Addiction


This study assessed incidental recognition of Alcohol and Neutral words in adolescents who encoded the words under distraction. Participants were 171 (87 male) 10th grade students, ages 14–16 (M = 15.1) years. Testing was conducted by telephone: Participants listened to a list containing Alcohol and Neutral (Experimental — Group E, n = 92) or only Neutral (Control — Group C, n = 79) words, while counting backwards from 200 by two's. Recognition was tested immediately thereafter. Group C exhibited higher false recognition of Neutral than Alcohol items, whereas Group E displayed equivalent false rates for both word types. The reported number of alcohol TV ads seen in the past week predicted higher false recognition of Neutral words in Group C and of Alcohol words in Group E. False memory for Alcohol words in Group E was greater in males and high anxiety sensitive participants. These context-dependent biases may contribute to exaggerations in perceived drinking norms previously found to predict alcohol misuse in young drinkers.

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© 2008 Elsevier Ltd.