Understanding social factors in alcohol reward and risk for problem drinking

Catharine E. Fairbairn, Brynne A. Velia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Researchers have long sought to capture acute rewarding effects associated with drinking alcohol with the view that a better understanding of alcohol's rewards will ultimately inform our knowledge of factors motivating problematic drinking. Importantly, however, although most everyday alcohol consumption occurs in social contexts, and drinkers report that socially enhancing effects of alcohol motivate their drinking, researchers studying alcohol's effects have often examined participants drinking alone and have neglected social elements of alcohol's impact on experience. Here, we present a program of work aimed at examining the social rewards individuals gain from alcohol consumption with the aim of achieving a more complete picture of factors that might reinforce alcohol consumption and potentially lead some to drink excessively. Using methods and measures aimed at tapping social elements of experience, we revisit questions that have been of enduring interest in the alcohol literature, including the question of what mechanisms might explain alcohol's rewarding effects, whether there exist individual differences in sensitivity to alcohol's rewards, as well as the extent to which context-level factors might moderate rewards gained from alcohol. We also explore questions left unanswered within this body of work, together with ongoing and future research directions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
EditorsKara D. Federmeier
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages24
ISBN (Print)9780128171752
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NamePsychology of Learning and Motivation - Advances in Research and Theory
ISSN (Print)0079-7421


  • Alcohol
  • Emotion
  • Reward
  • Social context

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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