Extraversion and the rewarding effects of alcohol in a social context

Catharine E. Fairbairn, Michael A. Sayette, Aidan G.C. Wright, John M. Levine, Jeffrey F. Cohn, Kasey G. Creswell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The personality trait of extraversion has been linked to problematic drinking patterns. Researchers have long hypothesized that such associations are attributable to increased alcohol-reward sensitivity among extraverted individuals, and surveys suggest that individuals high in extraversion gain greater mood enhancement from alcohol than those low in extraversion. Surprisingly, however, alcohol administration studies have not found individuals high in extraversion to experience enhanced mood following alcohol consumption. Of note, prior studies have examined extraverted participants-individuals who selfidentify as being highly social-consuming alcohol in isolation. In the present research, we used a group drinking paradigm to examine whether individuals high in extraversion gained greater reward from alcohol than did those low in extraversion and, further, whether a particular social mechanism (partners' Duchenne smiling) might underlie alcohol reward sensitivity among extraverted individuals. Social drinkers (n = 720) consumed a moderate dose of alcohol, placebo, or control beverage in groups of 3 over the course of 36 min. This social interaction was video-recorded, and Duchenne smiling was coded using the Facial Action Coding System. Results indicated that participants high in extraversion reported significantly more mood enhancement from alcohol than did those low in extraversion. Further, mediated moderation analyses focusing on Duchenne smiling of group members indicated that social processes fully and uniquely accounted for alcohol reward-sensitivity among individuals high in extraversion. Results provide initial experimental evidence that individuals high in extraversion experience increased mood-enhancement from alcohol and further highlight the importance of considering social processes in the etiology of alcohol use disorder.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)660-673
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of abnormal psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Alcohol
  • Emotion
  • Extraversion
  • Mediated moderation
  • Personality
  • Social interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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