Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


A variety of effects previously attributed to pharmacological properties of alcohol have been shown to result from cognitive factors. For example, subjects believing alcohol was consumed show greater craving for alcohol and consume more beverage than subjects believing alcohol was not consumed, regardless of whether these beliefs are accurate. This has been demonstrated using the balanced placebo design. Many researchers, however, have argued that these experiments should be conducted in a natural drinking environment to assess the external validity of previous laboratory findings, and to investigate possible interaction effects resulting from the presence of alcohol-associated environmental cues. This is important for clinical considerations, as treatment recommendations based on laboratory findings may be less relevant in the natural setting where the behaviour to be treated actually occurs.;To permit maximization of ecological validity in Study II, the drinking practices of undergraduate males were assessed in Study I. Results indicated that most often beer is consumed in on-campus bars, and that significant high levels of drinking and alcohol-associated problems were evident. In Study II, the balanced placebo experiment was conducted in an on-campus bar, and in a laboratory, thus permitting investigation of the relative influence of pharmacological, cognitive, and environmental variables on alcohol-related behaviour. Results indicated that beverage consumption in the laboratory was primarily determined by subjects' beliefs regarding the alcohol content, but that subjects' reported beliefs had no effect on consumption in the barroom. In the barroom, subjects began drinking sooner, drank more, and neither beliefs nor actual alcohol content had any influence on drinking behaviour. Subjective drunkenness was influenced by beliefs and setting, while behavioural impairment was influenced by beliefs and alcohol content.;It was concluded that analogue alcohol studies can and should be replicated in natural drinking environments, as results and clinical implications may differ. These findings suggest that pharmacological, cognitive, and environmental variables interact in a complex manner to produce a variety of effects, and that of these variables, consideration of environmental influences in alcohol treatment programs may be critical to their success.



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