The Psychological Record

, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 197–211 | Cite as

Behavioral Economic Predictors of Alcohol and Sexual Risk Behavior in College Drinkers

  • Shea M. Lemley
  • William A. FlemingIII
  • David P. JarmolowiczEmail author
Original Article


Heavy alcohol use among college students is a major public health concern. Alcohol use commonly occurs with sexual risk behaviors, but etiology remains unclear. Behavioral economics has yielded insights into decision-making processes underlying problematic health choices, including alcohol use and sexual risk behavior. In particular, the reinforcer pathologies framework has integrated behavioral economic demand and delay discounting to improve our understanding of addiction, but has yet to be extended to the study of sexual risk. In order to account for past sexual risk behavior and alcohol consumption, the current study examined college students’ demand for alcohol, money delay discounting, alcohol delay discounting, and sexual partners delay and probability discounting. Results revealed that behavioral economic variables (i.e., demand intensity, sexual partners delay discounting, alcohol delay discounting, and money delay discounting) were significant predictors of sexual risk and alcohol consumption levels. Additionally, consistent with the reinforcer pathologies model, an inability to delay sexual gratification (sexual delay discounting) and overvaluation of alcohol (demand intensity) interacted to account for significant variance in alcohol consumption and sexual risk. These findings highlight the importance of considering both sexual and alcohol decision making in research and intervention with college students.


College students Sexual risk Alcohol Discounting Demand 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

The present project was conducted in accords the with a researcher protocol approved by the Human Subjects Committee, Lawrence, the Institutional Review Board for the University of Kansas.


The present study was funded by a Strategic Initiative Grant from the University of Kansas Research Investment Council (INS0075092) to DPJ.

Conflict of Interest

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to declare.


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Copyright information

© Association for Behavior Analysis International 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shea M. Lemley
    • 1
  • William A. FlemingIII
    • 1
  • David P. Jarmolowicz
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of Applied Behavioral ScienceUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA
  2. 2.Problem Gambling Research and Education Support SystemUniversity of KansasLawrenceUSA

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