Of two minds about alcohol: Specific effects of evaluative conditioning on implicit, but not explicit, alcohol cognitions among heavy versus light drinkers.

Heavy episodic drinking (HED) is a dangerous and pervasive problem in college populations. Two experiments examined the asymmetric effects of evaluative conditioning (EC) on cognitions underlying HED in a nonclinical, student sample. Based on the associative−propositional evaluation (APE) model, we predicted that negative EC would result in stronger implicit alcohol avoidance motivation compared to neutral EC but would not impact explicit alcohol expectancies; further, we hypothesized stronger negative EC effects among students reporting HED compared to light drinkers. Experiment 1 supported these hypotheses. In Experiment 2, participants were required to focus on either feelings or knowledge about alcohol following EC. Replicating Experiment 1, negative EC was effective in promoting implicit alcohol avoidance motivation among students reporting HED compared to neutral EC, whereas no differences in explicit alcohol expectations or urges emerged. However, greater implicit alcohol avoidance predicted lower explicit alcohol urges among participants instructed to focus on alcohol-related feelings, but not alcohol-related knowledge, regardless of condition. Findings suggest students reporting HED, but not light drinkers, may exhibit implicit alcohol avoidance following negative EC and that instructions to focus on alcohol-related feelings may align explicit and implicit responses. Results have implications for interventions aimed at retraining implicit alcohol cognitions among college students. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)