Alcohol purchase tasks (APTs) are increasingly being used to assess behavioral economic demand for alcohol. Prior studies utilizing APTs have typically assessed demand for hypothetical outcomes, making the extent to which these hypothetical measures reflect preferences when actual rewards are at stake an important empirical question. This study examined alcohol demand across hypothetical and incentivized APTs. Nineteen male heavy drinkers completed two APTs - one for hypothetical alcohol and another in which one randomly-selected outcome was provided. Participants were given an opportunity to consume the alcohol associated with their choice on the incentivized APT during a self-administration period in a simulated bar environment. Results indicated generally close correspondence between APT versions, though participants were more sensitive to increases in price and tended to consume more at low prices on the incentivized version. Estimated consumption on the incentivized APT was highly correlated with the amount of alcohol consumed in the laboratory (r=.87, p<.001), suggesting that APT responses are valid indicators of actual drinking behavior. These results provide further evidence of congruence of demand-based decision-making when rewards are hypothetical vs. actually available. Implications for behavioral economic approaches to addictive behavior and directions for future research are discussed.
Keywords: Alcohol; Behavioral economics; Demand; Purchase task.
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