The influence of positive mood on executive control and appetitive responses to alcohol cues
Kantner, Carl William
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Heavy episodic drinking is linked with poorer academic performance, injury, and risk behaviors among college students. Understanding the cognitive and motivational factors that influence self-control of alcohol use is critical to identifying students' risk factors and developing interventions. Dual process models characterize alcohol use patterns as a function of automatic appetitive responses to alcohol-related stimuli and executive control functions. These processes may be influenced by contextual cues such as mood. The present research sought to better understand the cognitive-motivational mechanisms through which an established contextual cue for drinking - positive mood - influences alcohol use. Two studies examined the influence of positive mood induction on undergraduate drinkers' approach biases for alcohol cues and executive functioning using established and modified Stimulus Response Compatibility Tasks (SRC). Undergraduates who used alcohol at least once in the past month were recruited from the introductory psychology subject pool and randomized to positive or neutral mood induction conditions to determine whether positive mood: (1) increased approach bias or (2) impaired efforts to control alcohol cue responses. Prior to mood induction, participants completed individual difference measures related to alcohol use to evaluate potential moderators. Experiment 1 (N=93) examined post-induction alcohol approach bias and approach response inhibition using a stop-signal task within SRCs. Those in the positive mood condition did not exhibit greater approach bias or less inhibition, and mood effects were not moderated by individual differences as hypothesized. Experiment 2 (N=141) examined the influence of mood on approach bias and the ability to reverse established SRC responses to alcohol cues, with a pre-induction SRC to control for baseline approach biases. Again, positive mood did not significantly influence alcohol approach bias or executive control. Discussion: Results did not support positive mood influences on cognitive-motivational processes associated with drinking. The absence of mood effects may be a function of the type of positive mood induced or sensitivity of the SRC to detect alcohol-specific approach bias in this population. Future studies should explore these processes using alternate measures of alcohol-specific approach bias, response inhibition, and mood states that may be more specific to drinking.