Drinking-and-Driving–Related Cognitions Mediate the Relationship Between Alcohol Demand and Alcohol-Impaired Driving
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OBJECTIVE: Elevated behavioral economic demand for alcohol has been shown to be associated with drinking and driving in college students. The present study sought to clarify the underlying mechanisms of this relationship by examining whether drinking-and-driving-related cognitions (e.g., attitudes, perceptions, and normative beliefs) mediate the association between alcohol demand and drinking and driving. METHOD: A total of 134 young adult social drinkers completed an alcohol purchase task and measures of perceived dangerousness of drinking and driving, normative beliefs about drinking and driving, and perceived driving limit (i.e., perceived number of drinks one could consume and still drive safely). The frequency of drinking and driving in the past year was assessed via self-report. RESULTS: Individuals who reported drinking and driving exhibited greater alcohol demand (intensity, Omax, and elasticity) compared with those who did not engage in drinking and driving. Increased demand was also correlated with more favorable drinking-and-driving cognitions. Indirect effects tests revealed that perceived driving limit partially mediated the relationship between alcohol demand and drinking-and-driving behavior, even after accounting for drinking level, sex, and delay discounting. CONCLUSIONS: These findings provide further support for the utility of behavioral economic theory in understanding drinking-and-driving behavior. In particular, they provide evidence for one mechanism-drinking-and-driving-related cognitions-by which alcohol demand influences drinking and driving. Additional research using longitudinal and experimental designs is required to confirm this model and to identify other potential mediators.
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