Effects of Drinking Pattern, Drinking Consequences, and Perceived Threat On Attitudes Toward Problem Drinkers

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Mitchell E. Berman

Advisor Department



Previous research has established that negative attitudes are held toward individuals with alcohol use problems. However, these studies often examined whether stigma was associated with the label "alcoholic" rather than on negative alcohol-related behaviors. The present study examined the separate and combined effects of drinking pattern (e.g. social vs. heavy) and drinking consequences (e.g. no consequences vs. non-threatening consequences vs. threatening consequences) on stigma outcome measures. This study examined different subtypes of consequences in order to determine if the introduction of a threat component would lead to more negative ratings. The types of consequences examined included non-threatening consequences that have everyday effects on the lives of alcoholics, such as failing to tend to family and work obligations, and threatening consequences, such as aggressive behavior toward others. A sample of college students ( N = 168) watched 1 of 6 stimulus tapes, which included male actors being administered the alcohol dependence section of the SCID-I. After viewing the tapes, participants completed measures that assessed their attitudes toward the interviewees, including a semantic differential scale, Social Interaction Scale (SIS), Big Five Inventory (BFI), perceived IQ of interviewee, perceived threat, Positive and Negative Affect Schedule (PANAS), Self-Assessment Manikin (SAM), and a behavioral social distance measure. Results supported the hypothesis that participants would rate heavy drinkers more negatively than social drinkers. Results also supported the hypothesis that there would be a significant main effect for drinking consequences on outcome measures. Participants rated the no consequences group more positively than the other groups on all measures. However, on some stigma measures, participants did not indicate significant differences between the non-threatening and threatening consequences groups. The hypothesis that there would be significant interactions between drinking patterns and drinking consequences was not fully supported as interactions were only found with two outcome measures. Although findings should be interpreted cautiously given the number of analyses conducted, they may provide useful information for future studies on drinking consequences and stigma. Theoretical implications, limitations of the present study and recommendations for future research are discussed.