Although limited in empirical support, Alcohol Expectancy (AE) theory posits that AEs may overestimate subjective response (SR) to the positive effects of alcohol, which, in turn, confers alcohol-related risk (e.g., Darkes & Goldman, 1993). The recent development of the Anticipated Effects of Alcohol Scale (AEAS; Morean, Corbin, & Treat, 2012) and the Subjective Effects of Alcohol Scale (SEAS; Morean, Corbin, & Treat, 2013) now permits direct AE–SR comparisons using psychometrically sound assessments designed for this purpose.
We ran secondary data analyses (Morean et al., 2012, 2013) evaluating measurement invariance of AEs and SR; AE–SR relationships; the accuracy of AEs; and relations between AE–SR discrepancies and binge drinking, driving after drinking, and alcohol-related problems in a sample of 102 young adults (mean age 22.81 [2.25]; 74.5% male; 76.5% Caucasian) who consumed alcohol in a simulated bar setting (target blood alcohol level = .08 g/dL).
The AEAS and SEAS were scalar measurement invariant and that AEs generally overestimated SR (mean Cohen's d = .48). Relative to SR, inflated high arousal negative AEs (e.g., aggressive) were associated with frequent binge drinking and alcohol-related problems, whereas exaggerated low arousal negative AEs (e.g., woozy) served protective functions. As blood alcohol levels rose, inflated low arousal positive AEs (e.g., relaxed) and low arousal negative AEs (e.g., wobbly) were associated with less frequent driving after drinking.
Challenging AE–SR discrepancies for high arousal effects may have utility in treatment and prevention efforts, whereas maintaining overestimates of low arousal effects may serve protective functions.