I didn't feel like drinking, but I guess why: Evaluative conditioning changes on explicit attitudes toward alcohol and healthy foods depends on contingency awareness

Oulmann Zerhouni*, Katrijn Houben, Jonathan El Methni, Nikki Rutte, Edgar Werkman, Reinout W. Wiers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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Background and objectives: Addictive behaviors are influenced both by impulsive processes headed toward consumption, and by higher-order, reflective, control-oriented processes. Our objective here was to (i) change automatically-activated action tendencies and explicit attitudes toward alcohol and softdrinks, as well as fat and healthy food through evaluative conditioning (EC) and (ii) investigate the role of contingency awareness in producing an EC effect.

Methods: In the EC conditions, alcohol-related stimuli or fat foods (CS) were associated with negative pictures (US), while stimuli related to softdrinks or healthy foods (CS) were associated with positive pictures (US). In the control conditions, CSs were paired with neutral pictures (US). Measures of explicit attitudes and approach tendencies (AAT) were assessed before and after the EC procedure. Participants (n = 95) then indicated whether they remembered, for each CS, the valence of the associated US.

Results: Significant EC effects were found on explicit attitudes toward alcohol and marginally significant change on attitudes toward fat foods. The effect on alcohol appeared to depend on awareness of CS-US contingencies. No effects of EC were found on approach tendencies.

Limitations: Difficulties to find EC effects on action tendencies can be attributed to structural features of the AAT and strategies during EC.

Conclusions: We conclude that EC alone may not be efficient in reducing addictive behaviors in populations with reduced capacity to process CS-US pairs and for which impulsive behaviors are strong predictors of consumption.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalLearning and Motivation
Publication statusPublished - May 2019


  • Evaluative conditioning
  • Action tendencies
  • Explicit attitudes
  • Alcohol
  • Food
  • CUES

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