It remains unclear whether the negative reinforcement pathway to problematic drinking exists, and if so, for whom. One idea that has received some support recently is that people who tend to act impulsively in response to negative emotions (i.e. people high in negative urgency) may specifically respond to negative affect with increased alcohol consumption. We tested this idea in a preregistered secondary data analysis of two ecological momentary assessment studies using college samples. Participants (N = 226) reported on their current affective state multiple times per day and also the following morning reported alcohol use of the previous night. We assessed urgency both at baseline and during the momentary affect assessments. Results from our Bayesian model comparison procedure, which penalises increasing model complexity, indicate that no combination of the variables of interest (negative affect, urgency, and the respective interactions) outperformed a baseline model that included two known demographic predictors of alcohol use. A non-preregistered exploratory analysis provided some evidence for the effect of daily positive affect, positive urgency, as well as their interaction on subsequent alcohol use. Taken together, our results suggest that college students’ drinking may be better described by a positive rather than negative reinforcement cycle.
Supplementary notes can be added here, including code, math, and images.