Alcohol-Ingestive Habits

The Role of Flavor and Effect
  • Jack Sherman
  • Kenneth W. Rusiniak
  • John Garcia


We propose that alcohol is a food and that drinking alcohol is fundamentally a feeding habit. Many feeding habits are acquired by Pavlovian conditioning in which the flavor of food [conditioned stimulus (CS)] is adjusted by the aftereffects of the ingested meal [unconditioned stimulus (US)]. Thus, repletion of nutritive deficits or recuperation from illness enhances flavor palatability, whereas toxicosis or nausea reduces it. After reviewing the major functional and neurophysiological features of this homeostatic conditioning process, we relate them to the flavor (CS) and effect (US) of alcohol. We present evidence suggesting that the caloric effects of low-dose alcoholic drinks may help to establish and maintain alcohol habits through conditioned palatability changes. Included is a general treatment of the antagonistic interactions between such homeostatic conditioning and the behavioral mechanisms used to defend against peripheral insults such as electric shock. In closing, we discuss the implications for modifying alcoholic habits.


Conditioned Stimulus Unconditioned Stimulus Taste Aversion Pavlovian Conditioning Conditioned Taste Aversion 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jack Sherman
    • 1
  • Kenneth W. Rusiniak
    • 1
  • John Garcia
    • 1
  1. 1.Neuropsychiatrie InstituteUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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