Psychology, Department of
Date of this Version
Despite increased prevention efforts, binge drinking remains a prevalent issue among college students. Myriad negative consequences are associated with binge drinking (e.g., academic impairment, injury, legal trouble); however, it appears a subset of individuals do not alter future drinking to reduce their risk. This suggests that some binge drinkers are less sensitive to alcohol-related negative outcomes, which may stem from individual differences in neurocognitive functioning. The present study draws from a reinforcement learning theory framework to explain disparities in learning from negative outcomes. Specifically, an electrophysiological measure associated with diminished responsiveness to negative consequences (i.e., feedback-related negativity; FRN) and a decision-making task (Iowa Gambling Task; IGT) were used to index reinforcement learning. The study enrolled thirty college students age 18 to 23 across three categories of drinkers (non-binge, binge, and heavy drinkers) to test study aims. The first aim was to examine FRN differences among non-binge, binge, and heavy drinkers. A dose-response effect was expected with heavy drinkers showing the smallest FRN amplitude (an index of diminished response to consequences) and non-binge drinkers showing the largest FRN amplitude. The second aim was to examine the relationship between FRN and decision-making on the IGT among college binge drinkers. It was hypothesized that there would be a positive linear relationship between FRN amplitude and number of advantageous decisions on the IGT. The third aim was to examine the relationship between FRN and age of drinking onset, and it was hypothesized that there would be a positive linear relationship between FRN amplitude and age of drinking onset. Study methodology, results, and implications are discussed.
Adviser: Dennis E. McChargue
A Dissertation presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy; Major: Psychology; Under the supervision of Professor Dennis E. McChargue. Lincoln, Nebraska: May, 2013.
Copyright 2013 Laura C. Wahlstrom