Psychophysiological reactivity to emotional picture cues two years after college students were mandated for alcohol interventions

Addict Behav. 2010 Aug;35(8):786-90. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2010.03.017. Epub 2010 Mar 21.


This study examined alcohol use behaviors as well as physiological, personality, and motivational measures of arousal in students approximately 2 years after they were mandated to a brief intervention program for violating university policies about on-campus substance use. Students were categorized into serious (medical referrals, n=13) or minor (residence advisor referrals, n=30) infraction groups based on the nature of the incident that led to their being mandated. Self-report measures of arousal, sensation seeking, reasons for drinking, and past 30-day alcohol use were completed. Physiological arousal during exposure to emotional picture cues was assessed by indices of heart rate variability. The minor infraction group reported significantly escalating alcohol use patterns over time and a pattern of less regulated psychophysiological reactivity to external stimuli compared to the serious infraction group. The serious infraction group was higher in sensation seeking and there was some evidence of greater disparity between their physiological and self-reported experiences of emotional arousal in response to picture cues than in the minor group. Thus, the two infraction groups represent different subsets of mandated students, both of whom may be at some risk for using alcohol maladaptively. The findings suggest that intervention strategies that address self-regulation may be beneficial for mandated college students.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Cues
  • Emotions / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mandatory Programs
  • Motivation
  • Psychophysiology
  • Self Report
  • Students / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult