Automatic effects of alcohol cues on sexual attraction

Addiction. 2005 May;100(5):672-81. doi: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2005.01056.x.


Aims: The present study tested whether suboptimal priming (which may be defined as 'under viewing conditions rendering conscious identification highly improbable') with alcohol-related stimuli would activate existing expectancies about alcohol's effects on sexual desire. It was predicted that alcohol cues, relative to non-alcohol cues, would activate expectancies of alcohol's aphrodisiac properties. We hypothesized that for men, stronger expectancies in this regard would predict an increased tendency to judge women as sexually attractive following the alcohol primes.

Design: Two experimental studies manipulated cue (alcohol versus control) and rating dimension (attractiveness versus intelligence). Self-reported alcohol expectancies of sexual desire were assessed approximately 1 month prior to the study. Study 2 assessed additional expectancy content domains.

Setting and participants: Study 1 comprised 82 undergraduate males and study 2 78 undergraduate males. Studies were conducted at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, Missouri, USA.

Interventions: In both experiments, male participants were suboptimally primed with either alcohol-related or control words. Following this priming, they were presented with a series of photographs of young women and asked to either rate their attractiveness or their intelligence.

Findings and conclusions: In both studies, a three-way interaction between cue, rating dimension and alcohol expectancies was found. Within the attractiveness rating condition a two-way interaction was found, indicating that in this condition, stronger expectancies that alcohol increases sexual desire predicted higher attractiveness ratings after suboptimal exposure to alcohol primes. No effects emerged in the intelligence rating condition. Discussion centers on implications for sexual risk-taking as well as a range of other non-consumptive behaviors.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Cues*
  • Humans
  • Judgment / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Perception / drug effects*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires