Aversive Conditioning and Cognitive Mediators with Alcoholic Respondents

David P. Rice, Lawrence S. Schoenfeld

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Some theoretical explanations of aversive conditioning posit specific emotional states or “cognitive mediators” to account for behavior suppression. Although “anxiety” is widely recognised as much a cognitive mediator, few studies have attempted to obtain measures of “state anxiety” or of alternative competing hypotheses to test the model. This study probed the effects of two aversive conditioning paradigms on subjective response to both alcohol‐related and non‐alcohol related stimuli to test the anxiety model against other competing alternatives. A strong social desirability response bias obscured measurement on three outcome dimensions; adjective ratings of (1) General Evaluation, (2) Dangerousness, and (3) Appetitiveness. Both paradigms (i.e. Punishment and Mixed) appeared capable of producing increased “Aversiveness” for alcohol‐related stimuli; “Mixed” paradigm in which CS‐UCS contingencies were unpredictable was capable of increasing state anxiety displayed toward both test stimuli. Due to differential subject attrition, a quasi‐experimental design was imposed which complicated application of statistical tests. A point prevalence follow‐up at 90 days suggested that the experimental groups were slightly more successful at avoiding alcohol. An observation wax made about a personality dynamic of alcoholics which is thought to engender psychological reactance toward treatment interventions which do not allow opportunity for internal control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)165-174
Number of pages10
JournalBritish Journal of Addiction to Alcohol & Other Drugs
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1975

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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