The relationship of anxiety-proneness and sensation seeking to variability in expectancies of alcohol's effects

Robert Anthony Albano, Fordham University


The frequently found association of the personality dimensions of anxiety-neuroticism and sensation seeking with alcohol abuse has led to competing theories which emphasize either the substance's tension-reducing or arousal-heightening properties. Recently, expectancies of alcohol's effects have been implicated as salient mediators of subjective experience, leading to the suggestion that expectancies may determine the type of reinforcement which is experienced by individuals after alcohol consumption. The present study investigated the relationship between specific alcohol expectancies and the personality characteristics of trait anxiety and sensation seeking in an attempt to resolve the paradox between alcohol's tension-reducing and arousing effects as motivations for its consumption. The study hypothesized that expectancies for tension reduction and increased arousal would vary as a function of trait anxiety and sensation seeking characteristics of the subjects. One hundred male college students were administered Spielberger's (1972) Trait Anxiety Inventory, Zuckerman's (1979) Sensation Seeking Scale, and Brown et al.'s (1980) Alcohol Expectancy Questionnaire for a small and moderate dose of alcohol. Results indicate that Sensation Seeking scores, particularly on the Disinhibition subscale, demonstrate numerous significant correlations with the six expectancies measured by the AEQ. However, trait anxiety scores failed to show significant correlations with any expectancies, even those most consistent with a reduction in tension. In addition, heavy drinkers were shown to hold more positive expectancies than lighter drinkers, and subjects as a group held more positive expectancies for a moderate dose of alcohol than a small dose. These findings suggest that tension reduction may not be as strong a motivation for alcohol use as previously thought. Furthermore, sensation seeking traits may determine to a greater extent the types of expectancies which are held for alcohol consumption. The presence of numerous positive expectancies of the effects of alcohol consumption may be a significant factor in initiating and maintaining drinking behavior.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Albano, Robert Anthony, "The relationship of anxiety-proneness and sensation seeking to variability in expectancies of alcohol's effects" (1992). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9223805.