Are Alcohol Expectancies Associations? Comment on Moss and Albery (2009)

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Community and Global Health (CGU)

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Medicine and Health Sciences | Mental and Social Health | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Substance Abuse and Addiction


Moss and Albery presented a dual-process model of the alcohol–behavior link, integrating alcohol expectancy and alcohol myopia theory. Their integrative theory rests on a number of assumptions including, first, that alcohol expectancies are associations that can be activated automatically by an alcohol-relevant context, and second, that alcohol selectively reduces propositional reasoning. As a result, behavior comes under the control of associative processes after alcohol consumption. We agree with the second but not with the first assumption, based on theoretical and empirical arguments. Although in some cases expectancies may involve a simple association, they are propositional in nature. We demonstrate that this assertion is supported by existing literature cited in Moss and Albery. Moreover, 6 recent studies consistently demonstrated that under circumstances in which executive control is impaired (either as a stable individual difference or under the acute influence of alcohol), associative processes, over and above expectancies, predict alcohol-related behavior. Taken together, the evidence strongly suggests a fundamental distinction between expectancies and associations in memory: Effects of propositional expectancies and executive functions are impaired under the acute influence of alcohol, but memory associations are not. This difference in perspective not only has theoretical implications but also leads to different predictions regarding acute alcohol effects in society.

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© 2010 American Psychological Association