Psychology ETDs

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Much speculation but little experimental research has been directed toward the influence of the label "alcoholic" on drinking patterns. If, as has been theorized, attribution of behavior to a stable as opposed to an unstable determinant leads to maintenance of that behavior, then labeling drinking behavior as alcoholic, particularly among persons conceiving of alcoholism as a disease, may have a stabilizing influence on drinking behavior. Thirty-one subjects were first divided according to whether they regarded alcoholism as a "disease" or as a "bad habit." They were then randomly labeled as either "alcoholic or pre-alcoholic" or "social drinker," purportedly on the basis of earlier testing. Subsequently, alcohol consumption was measured on an unobtrusive taste rating task. There were no differences either in alcohol consumption or in subjects' self labels as a consequence of the manipu­lation. Among subjects conceiving of alcoholism as a disease, the group labeled alcoholic showed significantly more heterogeneity in alcohol consumption than did the group labeled social drinker. Implications of this finding for future research are discussed.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

William Richard Miller

Second Committee Member

Harold D. Delaney

Third Committee Member

Henry Carleton Ellis



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Psychology Commons