Alcohol intake leads people to focus on desirability rather than feasibility
According to alcohol myopia theory (Steele and Josephs in Am Psychol 45:921–933, 1990) intoxicated people disproportionally focus on the most salient aspects of a situation and ignore peripheral information. We investigated whether consuming alcohol leads people to disproportionally focus on the desirability rather than feasibility of important personal goals. Students named an important personal goal and then either consumed alcohol or a placebo. Thereafter, we asked them to freely think about their goal and to write down their thoughts and images. We content-analyzed students’ elaborations with regard to what extent they focused on the goal’s desirability and on its feasibility. Intoxicated students wrote more about aspects of desirability and less about aspects of feasibility than those who consumed a placebo. The results suggest that this effect is one mechanism by which alcohol intake leads people to feel committed to personal goals despite low feasibility of attaining these goals (Sevincer and Oettingen in J Abnorm Psychol 118:623–633, 2009).
KeywordsAlcohol Desirability Feasibility Expectations Incentive value Goal commitment Content analysis
Preparation of this article was supported by German Science Foundation grant OE 237/9-1 awarded to the second author. Birger Bosy’s and Maria Kowalski’s help with collecting the data and Gerlinde Luca’s help with coding the data are gratefully acknowledged.
- Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Ajzen, I. (1985). From intentions to actions: A theory of planned behavior. In J. Kuhl & J. Beckmann (Eds.), Action control: From cognition to behavior (pp. 11–39). New York: Springer.Google Scholar
- Bandura, A. (1997). Self-efficacy: The exercise of control. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
- Bargh, J. A., Gollwitzer, P. M., & Oettingen, G. (2010). Motivation. In S. Fiske, D. T. Gilbert, & G. Lindzay (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (5th ed., pp. 268–316). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Cox, W. M., & Klinger, E. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook of motivational counseling: Concepts, approaches, and assessment (2nd ed.). Chichester, UK: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Gollwitzer, P. M. (1990). Action phases and mind-sets. In E. T. Higgins & R. M. Sorrentino (Eds.), Handbook of motivation and cognition (Vol. 2, pp. 53–92). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Hull, C. L. (1943). Principles of behavior: An introduction to behavior theory. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.Google Scholar
- Hull, J. G., & Slone, L. B. (2004). Alcohol and self-regulation. In K. D. Vohs & R. F. Baumeister (Eds.), Handbook of self-regulation: Research, theory, and applications (pp. 466–491). New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
- Locke, E. A., Latham, G. P., & Erez, M. (1988). The determinants of goal commitment. Academy of Management Review, 13, 23–39.Google Scholar
- Mischel, W., & Patterson, C. J. (1978). Effective plans for self-control in children. In W. A. Collins (Ed.), Minnesota Symposium on Child Psychology (Vol. 11, pp. 199–230). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- National Geographic Society (Producer) (1979). Die unsichtbare Welt [the invisible world; VHS]. Available from Concorde Video GmbH, Stefan-Georg-Ring 23, 8000 Munich 81, Germany.Google Scholar
- National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (n.d.). What is a standard drink? Retrieved from http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/Practitioner/pocketguide/pocket_guide2.htm.
- Newell, A., & Simon, H. A. (1972). Human problem solving. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
- Oettingen, G. (2012). Future thought and behavior change. In W. Stroebe & M. Hewstone (Eds.), European review of social psychology, 23, 1–63.Google Scholar
- Schmidt, G. (n.d.). Blutalkohol-Berechnungsprogramm [blood alcohol content calculator]. Retrieved October 5, 2006, from http://www.blutalkohol-homepage.de/Promillerechner.php.
- Sevincer, A. T., Oettingen, G., & Lerner, T. (2011). Alcohol affects goal commitment by explicitly and implicitly induced myopia. Journal of Abnormal Psychology. doi: 10.1037/a0025931.
- Vogel-Sprott, M. (1992). Alcohol tolerance and social drinking: Learning the consequences. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Vogel-Sprott, M., & Fillmore, M. T. (1999). Learning theory and research. In K. E. Leonard & H. T. Blane (Eds.), Psychological theories of drinking and alcoholism (2nd ed., pp. 292–327). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
- Wicklund, R. A., & Gollwitzer, P. M. (1982). Symbolic self-completion. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Wundt, W. (1896). Grundriss der Psychologie [outline of psychology]. Leipzig, Germany: Engelmann.Google Scholar